Northern Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus orientalis (Temminck & Schlegel 1844)

Other Names: Pacific Bluefin Tuna, Pacific Northern Bluefin Tuna

Northern Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus orientalis, 20 naut miles off Ensenada, Mexico. Source: Alfonso Medellin / iNaturalist. License: CC BY Attribution-Noncommercial


Like their close relatives, the Southern Bluefin Tuna, Northern Bluefins are 'warm-blooded’ schooling predators. Their core body temperature may be up to 4 degrees warmer than the surrounding water temperature. This species is distinct from the Atlantic 'Northern Bluefin Tuna', Thunnus thynnus

Northern Bluefin Tuna are an extremely valuable commercial species. Over the past 22 years, populations of this species are estimated to have declined between 19–33% (Collette et al. 2014). As a result, Northern Bluefin Tuna are now classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN.

Northern Bluefin Tuna feeding on baitfish in the wild.

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Dianne J. Bray & Schultz, S., Thunnus orientalis in Fishes of Australia, accessed 02 Mar 2024,

Northern Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus orientalis (Temminck & Schlegel 1844)

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Widespread in the Indo-Pacific - and most common in the northwestern Pacific as adults. In Australia, the species occurs in small numbers off southwestern Tasmania, New South Wales, Western Australia and Queensland. Northern Bluefin Tuna are also found in New Zealand waters. The species usually inhabits water temperatures between 13.5 and 23 deg C.


Dorsal fin XVII-XIX, 0, 0, 13-18; Anal fin 14-16; Pectoral fin 23-26; Gill rakers 8-13. 

Dorsal fins separated by a narrow space. Second dorsal and anal fins followed by eight and six finlets, respectively. Pectoral fins short. Body elongate and slightly compressed. Large, conical teeth forming a single series, 12-20 in upper jaw, 10-17 in lower jaw. Body with anterior corselet and covered in small scales, posterior to corselet. Lateral line curves gradually downwards from origin to caudal peduncle. Caudal peduncle with well-developed keel, flanked on each side by a smaller keel. Swim bladder absent.


To at least 300 cm FL Fork length), and 450 kg in weight.


Dark blue to black dorsally, grey on sides, belly whitish. The dorsal stripes do not extend onto the belly.


A voracious predator, feeding on a wide variety of schooling fishes and squid, and also on crustaceans such as crabs, and other benthic invertebrates.


Like other large tuna species, Northern Bluefin Tuna are slow to mature, not reproducing until they are 3-5 years old, or even later. They spawn off Japan in the East China Sea, the Sea of Japan and in the Pacific waters off Shikoku, and many young fish migrate across the Pacific to Baja California after their first or second year. After spending several years in the food-rich waters of the eastern Pacific, they return to the waters of their birth in the Western Pacific - and remain in the Western Pacific throughout their adult lives. 

Some Northern Bluefin Tuna then head to southern hemisphere waters off Australia and New Zealand.

Like other large tuna species, Northern Bluefins are ‘warm-blooded’, and have core body temperatures up to 4 degrees warmer than the surrounding water temperature.


A highly valued commercial species, although not common in Australian waters. Recreational fishers take this species while trolling using lures. 

In the Pacific Ocean, half of the stock is taken in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, and the other half in the Western Pacific Ocean. The species is fished in the Northern Hemisphere with purse seines, set nets and by trolling. Collette et al. (2011) suggest that 


Often schools with smaller species of the family Scombridae.


The specific name orientalis is from Latin in reference to the "Oriental" distribution of this species.

Species Citation

Pelamys orientalis Temminck & Schlegel 1844, Fauna Japonica Parts 5-6: 94, Japan.


Dianne J. Bray & Schultz, S.

Northern Bluefin Tuna, Thunnus orientalis (Temminck & Schlegel 1844)


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Collette, B.B. 1999. Mackerels, molecules, and morphology. pp. 149-164 in Séret, B. & Sire, J.-Y (eds). Proceedings of the 5th Indo-Pacific Fish Conference. Nouméa, 3-8 November 1997. Paris : Société Française d'Ichtyologie 888 pp.

Collette, B.B. 2001. Scombridae. pp. 3721-3756 in Carpenter, K.E. & Niem, T.H. (eds). The Living Marine Resources of the Western Central Pacific. FAO Species Identification Guide for Fisheries Purposes. Rome : FAO Vol. 6 pp. 3381-4218. 

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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37441026

Conservation:IUCN Vulnerable

Depth:0-550 m

Fishing:Commercial & game fish

Habitat:Epipelagic, oceanic

Max Size:300 cm FL; 450 kg

Species Image Gallery

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map