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Bluefin tuna

The Pacific Bluefin Tuna (PBT), Thunnus orientalis is a wide-ranging pelagic species that spawns in the western Pacific. Despite recent periods of localized juvenile bluefin abundance off southern California, updated population assessments have shown a steep decline in the number of spawning adults.

Suppressed abundance of mature PBT within distinct spawning grounds around the Philippines and Sea of Japan has prompted increased fishery restrictions across the Pacific, including California recreational bag limit reductions.

Off California, the PBT fishery is focused primarily on juveniles ranging in size from just a few pounds to over 300.  It has been proposed that all PBT are spawned in the Western Pacific and a portion of the stock migrates across the Pacific at an early age to the rich foraging grounds off the U.S. West Coast and Mexico.  Juvenile PBT may remain off Baja California and the U.S. west coast for several years before returning to the western Pacific upon reaching sexual maturity.  Throughout their extensive migration, PBT are targeted by a variety of fisheries, including directed effort by California recreational anglers.  Considering recent California recreational fishery bag limit reduction from 10 fish/day to 2 fish/day, recent tagging work by PIER researchers has focused on assessing post-release survivorship and documenting best practices for anglers that release their catch.


These tagging studies have shown that Pacific bluefin tuna can have high survival rates following recreational capture and release when handled properly.  Anglers can greatly increase the likelihood of survival following catch and release by practicing a few simple techniques:



  • Be prepared with proper tackle: Use circle hooks, not “J hooks” if you intend to release your catch. Non-offset circle hooks reduce the potential for foul or gut hooking fish, minimizing damage to vital organs.
  • Minimize fight time: Bring the fish to the boat as quickly as possible using tackle appropriate for the grade of fish that you’re targeting. Minimizing fight time is one of the best ways to ensure that your catch is healthy upon release.
  • Leave fish in the water: Attempting to bring fish onboard using a net or gaff can cause additional trauma prior to release while increasing the chance of injury for both fish and fishermen. Whenever practical, use a line cutter or extended de-hooking device to release the tuna underwater.
  • Use careful hook removal tactics: Do not attempt to yank at or break the line; use a line cutter or extended de-hooking device to minimize potential tissue damage.

If you intend to release your catch, using appropriate gear and handling techniques will maximize fish survival and minimize recreational fishery impacts.  Supporting sustainable fishing practices and properly releasing supplemental catch will help to ensure the long-term availability of our valuable marine resources.