It can reach three meters in length and 700 kilograms in weight. It is a tuna, but not any. It is the tuna par excellence.
They call it the red gold of the Mediterranean, where it has its habitat. Red like the brick color of its very soft meat with an intense flavor, rich in protein and Omega-3 (more than double that of a tuna of another species). Golden because its cost per kilo can be priceless.
Especially because its cheeks, its fillets, are at the top of the inexhaustible demand of the Japanese market, which, in fact, absorbs ninety percent of the "bluefin tuna" caught in the Mare Nostrum, and is capable of beating it at auction for record figures. Like the one paid last winter at the Tokyo market (the largest in the world) for a single specimen of about 3 quintals. Two million and 700 thousand euros. Nine thousand and six hundred euros per kilogram!
In a market drugged by formidable profit margins, the sustainability of the fishing industry is at risk. And the parallel circuit of illegal fishing, mostly controlled by organized crime, is expanding. The ancient "tonnare" are a yellowed memory of the past. “Our” bluefin tuna (red tuna) goes to Tokyo. The one on our tables, often passed off as what it is not, comes from the Indian Ocean, the Pacific, the Atlantic The fact is that today the tuna fishing market for Italy is controlled by only 21 fishing boats that use the so-called "purse seine": a system that involves the use of huge circular nets that shrink as soon as the tuna schools there they have entered. And they allow them to be captured and transported live to cages in other waters, where they are fattened. Of these 21 fishing boats, 12 are stationed between Cetara and Salerno, in Campania region.
Few small fishing boats with modest quotas (and outside the speculative dynamics of a crazy market) and which have not succumbed to the economic lure to sell the right of bluefin tuna fishing quotas, continue their work with even more sustainable techniques such as those on the hook. The catch is eaten fresh on fishing areas, such as the South Eastern coast of Sicily, and is also processed and put in oil. So only 10% of the Red Gold of the Mediterranean remains on our tables, including these fantastic fillets, which have nothing to envy to the millionaire tuna, which migrate by plane to Japan.