Albacore is available canned and fresh and frozen whole fish, loins and steaks. Depending on where it’s caught, albacore is light brown or pinkish red, and it’s the only canned tuna allowed to be marketed as “white” instead of “light." Imported canned albacore is usually cooked twice, while small canneries on the U.S. West Coast put raw pieces of the fish in cans and cook them once in their own juices. Off the West Coast, albacore boats either brine freeze or blast freeze their catch. Brine-frozen fish gets canned, while most blast-and-bled albacore goes to the sashimi market. Pole and troll-caught albacore is usually bled on landing, leaving flesh light in color; bloody flecks mean that the fish wasn’t bled. Albacore tuna has low sodium and is known to be a good source of vitamins A and B12, as well as selenium and niacin.
Albacore tuna have a thick, short, torpedo body withe a slender tail. The fish's smooth skin is dark metallic blue in coloration on the back with a to silvery light coloration on the belly. The fish has streamlined fins and with a dark front dorsal fin and a pale yellow rear dorsal fin. Albacore's pectoral fins extend over half the length of their bodies and this is a distinguishing feature from other fish. Albacore reach maturity between 5 and 6 years old, and they live for 10 to 12 years. Albacore tuna initally grow fast and can reach sizes of 80 pounds and 47 inches in length. Albacore schools can be up to 19 miles wide and they fish can reach speeds of 50mph. Albacore have to eat nearly 25% of their own body weight and this top carnivore preys on sardines, anchovies, and squid. They fish is consumed by larger species of billfish, tuna, and sharks.
Albacore tuna are found in open waters of all tropical and temperate oceans with water temperature playing a leading role in where the fish lives. The species is highly migratory species, and the ocean conditions on any given year determine the timing and distance of their migration patterns.
Science & Management
In the United States, NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific Fishery Management Council manage the Pacific albacore tuna fishery on the West Coast and NOAA Fisheries and Western Pacific Fishery Management Council manage this fishery in the Pacific Islands. In Canada, the North Pacific albacore stock is managed by Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Six albacore stocks are managed by Regional Fishery Management Organizations (RFMOs): -North Pacific Ocean -South Pacific Ocean -North Atlantic Ocean -South Atlantic Ocean -Mediterranean Sea -Indian Ocean
Albacore tuna are migratory and have a high reproductive rate, making it fairly resilient to fishing pressure. However, the species’ schooling and spawning behavior makes it easier for fishermen to target and catch them. Albacore tuna are currently overfished in the North and South Atlantic, and are undergoing overfishing in the South Atlantic according to a 2014 Seafood Watch report. Populations of albacore tuna in the Pacific Ocean are healthy, and overfishing is not occurring there. In the Indian Ocean, albacore tuna is currently undergoing overfishing but they are not overfished.
Habitat impacts ( Wild)
Different fishing gear types are used to catch albacore tuna. In the Pacific, most albacore tuna is caught using troll and pole-and-line gear, which does not damage the seafloor. They are also caught with purse seine, drift gillnet gear and longlines. Longline gear doesn’t impact bottom habitats because it operates at or near the surface. Purse seines also have little contact with the seafloor, although Seafood Watch points out that fish aggregating devices (FADs) can be anchored to the bottom. Overall, habitat damage tends to be minor in this fishery.
Although fishing gear types vary by region, most albacore fishermen use longlines. These hooks accidentally ensnare and kill endangered sea turtles and sharks, as well as different kinds of marine mammals, billfish and seabirds. Longline tuna vessels in the Atlantic are required to collect and report bycatch and discard information. They must have equipment for the safe handling, disentanglement and release of sea turtles, and the captain must be trained on correct techniques. Starting in 2013, countries in the Atlantic that have not reported shortfin mako shark catch data are prohibited from catching them, according to a 2014 Seafood Watch report. Troll and pole-and-line gear result in significantly less bycatch.
Due to their migratory nature, albacore tuna are managed by several different bodies around the world. The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) manages them in the Atlantic. Although Seafood Watch called ICCAT’s rebuilding and recovery plans for albacore tuna moderately effective, the Commission’s bycatch strategy was rated ineffective because it doesn’t meet best practices. There are no bycatch cap or catch limits.
Albacore tuna are managed in the U.S. and Canadian longline fisheries by the National Marine Fisheries Service and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. While Seafood Watch rated most of the management strategies as moderately effective, the bycatch strategy was called ineffective in the Canadian North Atlantic longline fishery because it does not require best practices for reducing incidental shark capture. Observer coverage was also lacking.
The Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences manage tuna in those regions. The management was given a red score by Seafood Watch due to a lack of measures to improve monitoring, a lack of total allowable catch, lack of bycatch data as well as poor bycatch mitigation. A scientific committee recommended reducing albacore tuna fishing mortality by 20% to maintain the stock but no management measures have been adopted to address it. Seafood Watch also pointed to IUU fishing issues in the Indian Ocean.
In the Pacific, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC) and the state of Hawaii all manage tuna. Measures in the western and central Pacific Ocean were called moderately effective in a 2014 Seafood Watch report. However, management in the eastern Pacific longline fishery did not meet best practice requirements and scientific advice was not always followed, according to a separate report.