What Is a Tuna Boat?

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  • Written By: Mark Wollacott
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2019
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A tuna boat is a sea vessel used by fishermen to catch tuna. There are many means of tuna fishing using a tuna boat, including active hunting such as harpooning and more passive fish farming. A tuna boat is also a piece of American urban slang meaning either an obese lady or a car with at least two attractive women inside. It is a piece of coarse slang, and the usual meaning of the term is a fishing boat.

The tuna boat comes in different sizes depending on the scale of fishing involved. Small boats are more historical and connected with small scale hunting. An example of an archaeological find, suggesting long-term tuna fishing, is the Badelunda boat in Sweden. Made entirely of wood and twine, the boat functioned without the need for metal brackets or hull reinforcement. Such boats tend to use hand-thrown harpoons or baited lines.

A larger tuna boat is usually factory-built with a metal hull. Such boats have a larger crew and a larger operating distance. Most national tuna fishing fleets are made of such boats. The boats can be used to hunt and store large amounts of fish. They can use harpoon guns, long line baited fishing lines and purse seine nets. They can also be used to harvest fish farms out to sea.


The majority of tuna fishing is performed in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. This means the tuna boat needs to be equipped for long-distance fishing. Small ships rarely move more than half a day’s sailing from the coast. Larger vessels contain not only navigation and hunting equipment, but adequate storage space for several days, weeks or months worth of catches. This means the boats will be capable of holding and freezing tuna for some time before the meat reaches market.

There are several types of tuna that are caught using tuna boats. These include the Atlantic bluefin, the Pacific bigeye and the yellowfin. All types of tuna are large, fast-swimming fish. They are known for their dark flesh and high meat yields. Tuna can be sold for tuna steaks and flakes used in sandwiches, fisherman’s pies and pastas. They are also used raw in Japanese restaurants for sashimi and sushi.

Tuna fishing is a large industry, but is under scrutiny across most of the world for over-fishing. The Atlantic bluefin, for example, has declined in population by 80 percent since 1970 and the populations of Pacific tuna are worse off. This means tuna is on the verge of being an endangered species.


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