Local anglers can only count a few stories of pulling in bluefin tuna in recent years, dozens of miles off the San Francisco and Peninsula coast. But in a remarkable turn, the rare but not technically endangered tuna, which are prized for sushi meat in Japan especially, have been swimming in close to shore — just a few miles off of Half Moon Bay.
The massive fish, ranging around 150 pounds, have been showing up in droves near SF, and as the Chronicle reports, 30 to 35 have been caught by local fishermen in just the last week. The bluefins are here, they say, because they're chasing the same massive schools of anchovies that have brought humpback and blue whales in closer to shore near Northern California this year.
"Unbelievable how close they are, unbelievable how big they are," says fisherman Charlie Claycomb Jr. to the Chronicle. Claycomb and a buddy recently hooked two bluefin in one fishing trip, and he says the work involved in pulling in one of these fish is simply exhausting.
Another fisherman, Doug Laughlin, tells the paper, "We are walking on clouds, what we’re getting to experience."
These fish, which have been notably overfished in the last decade, have been showing signs of increased numbers, and the local fishing community is hoping that the bluefins stick around a while or return next year. Typically, they would be more easily found in warmer waters off the coast of San Diego, or near Hawaii, where they make the long journey from the spawning grounds in the Sea of Japan after their first birthday. As the Smithsonian explains, experts until recently believed that only a small percentage of the fish made the 5,000-mile migration to the North American coast, but now they believe it's far greater number.
The fish are unique in that they are one of the only "warm-blooded" fish species, with special blood-vessel networks that allow them to swim through frigid waters that are typically too cold for big fish.
Pacific bluefin tuna take five years to mature, and can grow to upwards of 600 pounds. One such enormous specimen sold in 2019 for a whopping $5,000 per pound to a Japanese sushi restaurant chain — a total price tag of over $300 million.
Typical prices for bluefin tend to be around $40 per pound, as NPR reported, though that could go up to $200 per pound depending on the size.
By that scale, the five-foot-long, 150-pound specimens pulled in by Claycomb and his friend last week could command prices between $6,000 and $30,000 apiece.
Japan currently consumes about 80 percent of the world's Pacific bluefin tuna. The Atlantic bluefin, a close relative, is currently listed as an endangered species.