Hot Tuna

  • Thursday, July 26, 2012 / 7:00 PM (PDT)
  • Pollock Theater
  • With Rick Rosenthal (cinematographer)

Evolution went overboard with the bluefin tuna.  It can weigh in at 1,500 pounds, span more than ten feet, move up to 50 miles per hour, range from one end of the north Atlantic to the other, and dive from the surface to 3,000 feet deep.  It is perhaps the largest, fastest, strongest and most migratory bony fish in the sea.

In fact, if being the ultimate fish isn’t enough, it even steals the thunder of marine mammals.  It is warm blooded – a singular stroke of adaptation that allows it to hunt waters across a staggering range of temperatures, from the tropics to the sub-Arctic. No other fish holds that claim.

The bluefin is stoked for survival.  But the formidable size and musculature that has long made it such a success is fast becoming its downfall. The demand for fresh tuna has driven it to the brink of extinction. Recently, one bluefin sold for a record $738,000: ounce for ounce, the same price as silver.

Fast and furious, the wild bluefin tuna has always been an elusive quarry for filmmakers.  Few have filmed them in the wild.  For marine biologist and wildlife cameraman Rick Rosenthal, documenting the bluefin has become the ultimate challenge.

Rosenthal’s passion for bluefin was sparked years ago when he was the first to capture an extraordinary underwater spectacle. In the pristine blue waters of the Azores, he witnessed large numbers of dolphins, seabirds and tunas working together in a ferocious three-dimensional attack. The predators corralled seething shoals of panicked baitfish, compressing them into tighter and tighter formation. Then, in explosive bursts, they rammed through the “bait ball” they had created, greedily engulfing mouthfuls of their prey.

But today the waters of the Azores are quiet. What’s become of the bluefin and their feeding frenzies? To find out, Rosenthal sets out in pursuit. He ventures across the north Atlantic, up the restless Gulf Stream, and to the depths of the tuna’s sprawling range.  He is joined by fishermen, biologists, tuna trackers and tuna traders.

What begins as a search for the soul of one fish becomes a greater mission, ambitious and transformative. The goal: To find the tuna’s place in the grand scheme of the vast marine ecosystem.

HOT TUNA plumbs the secrets of the legendary bluefin tuna, on a quest for the last refuge of a giant among fish.


Cinematographer Rick Rosenthal

Rick Rosenthal is a multiple EMMY and BAFTA award-winning cinematographer. A professional marine biologist, he started diving in San Diego in 1960, and for many years was involved with scientific research projects along the Pacific Coast of North and South America.  Rick has authored or co-authored more than fifty scientific papers on near shore ecology and fisheries biology. He received a Bachelors Degree in Biology from Humboldt State University, and a Masters Degree in Marine Biology from San Diego State University.  After graduation, Rick served on the research staff at Westinghouse Ocean Research Laboratory (San Diego) and Scripps Institute of Oceanography.  Rick worked for many years as a consulting biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish & Game; the National Marine Fisheries Service and US Fish & Wildlife.

In 1984, he began a long association with the prestigious BBC/Natural History Unit in Bristol, England. During this time, he has filmed some of the most challenging wildlife subjects in the sea. Rick was a principal cameraman for BBC’s landmark BLUE PLANET series, and the feature film DEEP BLUE.  He filmed on the blockbuster series PLANET EARTH and Disney Nature’s EARTH.  The BBC, PBS and Discovery channels commissioned three of his whale films RIDDLE OF THE RIGHT WHALE, HUMPBACK WHALES and SPERM WHALES BACK FROM THE ABYSS for worldwide broadcast.

His background as a cameraman includes a variety of high end television and cinema productions utilizing different formats in both film and video.

His passion for the open ocean far from the coasts and reefs led him to direct the one-hour film SUPERFISH about the fastest predator in the sea. His camera work is also an integral part of the National Geographic television series GREAT MIGRATIONS and the BBC/Discovery mega-series LIFE. This past year he filmed Atlantic salmon in Canada and Iceland; sperm whales in the Azores and HOT TUNA, an extremely challenging endeavor about the natural history and behavior of Atlantic Bluefin tuna.

Rick lives in Santa Barbara, California and travels extensively doing film work and giving presentations accompanied by high definition video about the marine environment and the wonders of the natural world.

This event is sponsored by the Carsey-Wolf Center, Associated Students Coastal Fund, and UCSB Summer Session

CWC Docs

The Carsey-Wolf Center is committed to screening documentaries from across the world that engage with contemporary and historical issues, especially regarding social justice and environmental concerns. Documentaries allow filmmakers to address pressing issues and frame the critical debates of our time.