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Bluefin Tuna Cutting Show at Tensuke Market
President Sugiyama Speaks about A to Z of Tuna

• The Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Cutting Demonstration was held at Tensuke Market in Elk Grove on November 15, and about 100 people gathered to watch the show. A 360-pound-bluefin tuna that was caught offshore of Boston, MA was then brought to the store by a refrigerator truck, not by a freezer one.
• Because of the enormous size of the fish, professional skills were required to cut it, so Hidemi Ikeda, who was the manager and chief sushi chef of Sea Ranch in Evanston, came to do it. He has 48 years of experience in fish business.

• While Ikeda was cutting the fish, Takashi Thomas Sugiyama, President of Tensuke Market, spoke about the bluefin tuna. He has been in the tuna purchasing business since the 1970s and knows about the fish from A to Z. He also caught giant tunas by himself: a 640-pound tuna in 1986 and a 965-pound tuna in 1989.

• According to Sugiyama, there used to be many catches at Gloucester,Massachusetts until the middle of the 1990s; however, schools of bluefin tuna moved to Canada because the smaller fish they prey on had moved to the north. This year, a big school of medium sized Atlantic bluefin tuna returned to near Boston for the first time in 20 years. All those are 300 to 400-pound tuna. “Although they are categorized as medium size, the National Marine Fishery Service rates Giant Bluefin Tuna as over 310 pounds, so this 360-pound tuna is one of the Giants,” Sugiyama explained. He also said that bluefin tuna eat a lot from July to November, so the fat content of the tuna was very good and delicious.
• Tensuke Market served nakaochi, meat around the bone, to the audience, and they enjoyed the fresh tuna meat.

• Sugiyama shared his thrilling experience of catching a 945-pound tuna with the audience. When he hooked it, it took the whole line, which was over 990 feet, within few minutes. He installed a large red-ball float at the end of the line, so he could see where the fish was. It rushed to escape by pulling the line to four miles away and finally stopped. Sugiyama chased the fish and it took two hours to pull up it. He finally harpooned it.

• He said that the escaping speed of Atlantic bluefin tuna was 90 miles per hour in the sea water while their regular speed was 30 to 40 miles per hour, according to the Japanese Fisheries Institutes. On the other hand, the National Marine Fisheries Service in the U.S. estimated their maximum swimming speed was 55 miles per hour based on the strength of tailfin muscles. By using a satellite, the organization checked the cruising speed of a school of tuna, which was moving from Florida to the north, and found that the speed was around 40 miles per hour, and the school was swimming at the edge of the continental shelf, which was more than 1,300-feet deep.

• Sugiyama spoke about another experience. When a giant bluefin tuna was hooked, it went down 300 feet to the bottom of the sea and bounced back to the surface. It jumped into the air 13 feet high in front of his face, 7 to 10 feet away from him. The tuna wagged its head to shake the hook from its mouth, and he lost the fish.
• Sugiyama said, “Tuna are very smart. Usually a 600 to 800-pound tuna is over 20 years old. They have gone through so many dangerous situations.” He also said that a bluefin tuna spawns 10 million eggs, but only one or two tunas survive.

• When a tuna is hooked and tries to escape, the struggle lasts hours, so the tuna’s body temperature goes up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Sugiyama said that the key treatment of a catch was how quickly you cool off the tuna; otherwise, its meat became dried out and tasteless. The catches are soaked in icy water for some days then shipped to customers through distributors.

Tensuke’s customers gather to watch the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Cutting Show. (Photo: courtesy of Tensuke Market)

Takashi Sugiyama (R), President of Tensuke Market, poses in front of the giant bluefin tuna. (Photo: courtesy of Tensuke Market)

Takashi Sugiyama caught a 965-pound tuna in 1989.