Tuna are the jewels of the sea. Their incredible size makes them one of the most sought after fish to catch. Whether just for the thrill of knowing you can pull this 10-foot creature in, or the need to put food on the table, many anglers love the thrill of catching a tuna. However, before you bring tuna in, you have to catch up with it. These agile fish, though enormous and heavy, are some of the quickest fish you’re likely to encounter for their size.
As powerful as a jet engine and as nimble as a prop plane, the tuna is able to make the most out of its size and shape in order to glide through the waters at a constant and incredible speed. Some tuna, regardless of size, are able to reach up to 43 miles per hour.
Compared to the Great White, a shark known for its speeds – 25-30 miles per hour – this is almost unheard-of. Humans can swim around 5 miles per hour, so we’d have no chance when racing a tuna.
While this number certainly is incredible, what’s more impressive is how the tuna utilizes its build and the flow of the ocean to reach such speeds. It’s almost as if, over years of migrating long distances and the steady growth of the species, they have evolved to meet the requirements of making these annual treks across oceans from their breeding to their feeding grounds. The tuna is an amazing fish, and knowing how fast they can be when seeing their bulky size makes them just that much more wondrous.
What Makes a Tuna So Fast?
It’s all about how they’re built. Many other large species of fish, primarily sharks, are built with some form of water resistance which prevents them from reaching the speeds a tuna can hit. Though the Great White is faster than most fish, they are simply too bulky in certain areas to maximize their speed. The tuna is built much like a torpedo in that their bodies can squeeze through the water in a way that there is very little resistance pushing back against them.
With special muscles that have evolved over the years to enable their quick swimming, the tuna has an advantage over most other species of fish. They can either push against the current to use the flow around them as a form of propulsion, or they can simply glide with it, boosting their speeds as they go. The direction and destination in which their swimming towards will vary the use of their specialized swimming muscles.
For their size and weight, (ranging anywhere from 3-10 feet and 40-500 lbs) the tuna has no right being so fast. Yet everything about them is built for speed. Their torpedo bodies help them cut through the water like a knife, their swimming muscles help add propulsion every time they kick, and their scales are so aerodynamic it’s like they’re not even there. The tuna is so fast because everything about it works with the water to help them speed through it.
What’s the Need for Speed?
Tuna, much like salmon, have two separate habitats that they migrate between every year. One of these locations is a breeding ground where they give birth and raise their offspring. The other location is their feeding ground where they eat and grow into adults. They are creatures of habit and have found that it’s much easier to survive by sticking with what they know will work. The breeding ground has proven safe and effective, so why search for another one? Same with their food source.
The issue with this, is that for many tuna, those two regions are literally oceans apart. Many tuna will swim across the Atlantic Ocean to give birth in the Gulf of Mexico, only to return to the shores of Europe where the feeding is good. This means that every year, twice a year, the tuna has to trek across an entire ocean just to get to their destination. This migration can be quite dangerous as there are many predators and miles of open ocean in between.
The faster the tuna, the less likely they’ll get caught along the way – by predators or humans alike. So, only the fastest continue and the process of evolution takes hold. If the tuna weren’t able to reach the speed they can, many more of them would die along this journey and the species would quickly go extinct. The need for speed stems from the need to survive. Though, getting the journey done quickly certainly does mean more time to eat which is always a benefit.
Protecting the Species of Tuna
The tuna is one of the most fished species in the entire world. The demand for tuna is great, and there are hundreds of commercial fishing companies that are constantly searching for and reeling in millions of tuna every year. Lately, with the population of the world rising, the demand has become even greater, and so the effect on the tuna population has become much more drastic. Though the tuna can reach up to 43 miles per hour, it’s still not enough to avoid the net of humans.
To combat this drastic and ever-growing impact that commercial fishing is having on the tuna population, many different organizations are working to stabilize the tuna population and prevent them from being fished to extinction. Though they might not be endangered yet, the rate at which they’re being caught will put them on that list in no time. It’s up to environmentalists to keep the population safe, and to put an end to overfishing.
These organizations are not calling for the complete end of tuna fishing as they understand the demand and importance of that industry. However, they also understand the need for a decrease in the harm being done to tuna populations. By knowing more facts about tuna, you’re taking great strides into helping the species survive.
Tuna are fascinating creatures and should be respected as such. If you’re out fishing for them, be sure to take the proper precautions to keep the species safe and to do as little harm to the population as possible.