Rick Rosenthal to Premiere “Hot Tuna” at HSU

Emmy-award winning cinematographer Rick Rosenthal (’67, Zoology) will return to Humboldt State May 1-2 to premiere his latest film about the bluefin tuna.

“Hot Tuna” is a documentary that tells the story of the Atlantic bluefin, one of the largest and fastest fish in the world. It’s also one of the most highly prized.

The hour-long film captures the science, natural history and behavior of the elusive creature—one of a handful of warm-blooded fish that’s also dubbed the “athlete” of the ocean. The event is free and open to the public.

“What I wanted to do with this movie was to go out in the wild open ocean and look at these fish eyeball to eyeball to really get to know them,” Rosenthal says.

A three-time Emmy-award winner and marine biologist, Rosenthal’s films have appeared worldwide, as well as in the Americas on the BBC, CBC, PBS, National Geographic and the Discovery Channel.

His latest documentary produced with his partner Katya Shirokow was also his most challenging. Highly migratory and notoriously speedy, the bluefin has long eluded filmmakers.

”Several groups have tried over the years to film them but without much success,” he says.


Rosenthal and his crew spent two years in the Atlantic tracking the bluefin in its natural environment, sometimes waiting up to weeks on end for the perfect shot.

But it was on their last shoot in the Azores where their persistence paid off. They got a tip from a commercial fisherman about a bluefin sighting 60 miles from nearest land.

When they arrived on location, the surface waters were calm. But after several hours of searching, they witnessed small explosions of white water on the surface of the ocean. As they got closer, they saw thousands of tuna—weighing up to 800 pounds each—feeding on schools of mackerel.

Rosenthal jumped into the water for closer look, swimming full out with the camera. “They were circling around us as they were feeding,” Rosenthal recalls. “It was a once in a life time encounter.”

In addition to its remarkable behavior, the bluefin has an interesting commercial history, Rosenthal notes. Thirty years ago, bluefin meat was used as pet food in the United States. But when sushi and sashimi became trendy in the 1980s, its value suddenly sky rocketed worldwide.

Bluefin tuna isn’t listed as endangered, but drastic population declines in the Atlantic due to overfishing have scientists and fishery managers on alert, Rosenthal notes.

In fact, its meaty flesh is so prized in Japan that earlier this year, a sushi restaurant paid over $730,000 for one fish—the highest price ever paid for a single bluefin. Today, bluefin population numbers are less than 10 percent of what they were 50 years ago.

“What we’re trying to do in this film is bring awareness to this marvelous fish by taking them out of the can and off the dinner plate. “Let’s admire the bluefin on its own terms before we commit to eating them,” says Rosenthal.

“Hot Tuna” premieres May 1 from 7-9 p.m. in the Van Duzer Theatre and May 2 6-8 p.m. in the Kate Buchanan Room. A question and answer session will follow.

Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served starting April 17. The limit is four tickets per person. For ticket information, call the HSU Box Office at (707) 826-3928.