Nearly 700kg is on its way to Japan in the form of three massive tuna that were hauled ashore yesterday by Hawke's Bay Seafoods.

Hawke's Bay Seafoods director Nino D'Esposito said the northern bluefin tuna were caught 60 miles east of Gisborne in 23C water.

A crane was used to hoist up the massive tuna, the first weighing in at 175kg, the next 181kg and the third, with a length of 2.2 metres, weighing a staggering 304kg.

A few onlookers came to the West Quay dock and marvelled at their size.


Yesterday afternoon the tuna were boxed with ice and will arrive in Japan tonight, to be auctioned off at Tsukiji market, one of Japan's largest fish markets, tomorrow.

Two weeks ago a bluefin tuna weighing about 200kg sold at Tsukiji market for $60,000.

But a number of factors come into the value, such as fat content and bruising. One had a shark bite near its tail, but manager Marcus D'Esposito said the bite would not matter too much due to where it was.

"It's pretty impressive, we're pretty excited about it.

"It's pretty unlikely to get three big ones like this," Mr D'Esposito said.

A fisherman all his life, skipper Steve Harvey said it was not very often you would catch one northern bluefin tuna, so to snag three was "quite unusual".

The four-strong crew was at sea for six days and they set a hook-laden 20-mile line to sea in the early hours of each morning.

Each hook was baited with an entire squid and the line was picked up again at lunchtime.

Mr Harvey said they were making the most of the season with another month, maybe two left.

The crew would head back to sea in two days' time.

Also caught were 11 yellowfin tuna.

The manager said this type of tuna had just come into the water. He said tuna was a migrating species spending about two months in one area at a time.

Education team leader for the National Aquarium of New Zealand, Carol Larsen, said tuna were unlike any other fish.

They are fast swimmers clocking up to 75km an hour, making them a difficult but fun catch, she said.

Ms Larsen said this type of tuna could grow up to two metres long and weigh as much as 700kg.

"They are enormous fish.

"They're big and exciting to catch and they are targeted."

Typically found in warmer waters, Ms Larsen said northern bluefin tuna numbers were dwindling due to their popularity but numbers of yellowfin tuna were still vast.

The director said the catch was good for the region because it brought in money. He said Hawke's Bay Seafoods and Ngati Kahungunu had a great relationship with Japanese fish company Nissui, dating back to 1983.

He said each year Nissui staff visited Hawke's Bay and he and Ngati Kahungunu Iwi chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana were travelling to Japan next week.