Charlie Tuna, Where Have You Gone?

A look into the world wide Ahi Tuna shortage

As our Summer Menu heads to the presses, we want to share with you one of the changes that we have put into place. With regret, we will only be able offer our Rare Ahi Tuna on a  very limited basis, if at all. The seafood market has been experiencing a very tight squeeze on the quality of tuna that we work with.

So what has happened to cause this tuna shortage? A recent newsletter from a seafood supplier notes that, for the past decade, we have been both blessed and spoiled by a relatively abundant supply of  Pacific Yellow Fin. This product, commonly referred to as Ahi Tuna and marketed in the United States as “CO Treated” or “Wood Smoked”, had enjoyed consistent supply and very stable pricing.

The newsletter goes on to reveal:

…starting in 2011, and now continuing in 2012, this trend of good availability and pricing stability has been completely reversed. We are currently experiencing some of the most severe supply shortages that the tuna industry has ever faced. The reasons, some factual and others theoretical, are many but all revolve around a severely reduced raw material supply, or tuna biomass.

The reduction of raw material can be attributed to:

1) Overfishing.

2) Fleet reduction. Many vessels have begun targeting more abundant species, thus limiting the amount of boats fishing tuna.

3) Migration changes. Many feel the tuna have moved to different areas, possibly due to:

  • Water temperature changes brought on by El Nino / Global Warming
  • Water quality changes brought on by the Tsunami in that Region
  • Bait migrations.

4) The introduction of Super Frozen Tuna to the Japanese market. This method of production allows for the product to be kept a minus 60 degrees F, which maintains the natural red color of the fish without the need for CO Treatment. The difficulty with this method is the product must be kept at minus 60 F throughout the entire supply chain, otherwise the product will begin to breakdown.

The market for this product is roughly twice the cost of regular CO product, thus becoming more profitable to the tuna supplier and removing a large percentage of fish from the market that may have previously been processed with traditional CO methods.

This comes out to a pretty simple (albeit sad) equation: Less fish + high demand=shortages and high prices.

Hopefully this bigger picture puts into perspective the idea of sustainability and highlights our efforts to source local food whenever possible.

We are looking forward to a great summer. We will see you down at The Brick soon.

-Matt Plumb



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C_Newport May 08, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Speaking of Tuna ... Save the Bluefin!!! I encourage you all to educate yourselves on the Bluefin Tuna crisis (not the Yellow Fin as mentioned above). Let's show some local support for saving the Bluefin by signing this pledge: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/fish/Atlantic_bluefin_tuna/bluefin_boycott/ Restaurants can also pledge to be Bluefin-Free. Let's get some local dots on their "Bluefin-free Restaurants" map
Matt Pumb May 08, 2012 at 02:18 PM
We do not serve Atlantic Bluefin
C_Newport May 08, 2012 at 02:48 PM
The "Ahi" Yellow Fin you serve is indeed a different species than the Bluefin and I didn't mean to imply that you serve it. I am not against eating tuna in general, just not Bluefin tuna! I will say that your Ahi Tuna Sliders are scrumptious and it's too bad they may be in short supply this year! Please consider starting a Newport trend of support against Bluefin Tuna fishing by adding your restaurant to the Bluefin-Free list! http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/fish/Atlantic_bluefin_tuna/bluefin_boycott/restaurant_sign-ons.html http://action.biologicaldiversity.org/t/5243/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=5209
van derrick December 21, 2013 at 02:45 AM
My understanding is that pelagic yellow fin (Atlantic and Pacific) have survived as long as they have (as opposed to blue fin) because the don't school like the blue and thus aren't subject to purse seiners. Overfishing is first on your list for a reason I suspect.


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