Seafood Feature of the Month
Pacific albacore tuna
Pacific albacore tuna can be caught at any time of the year, but starting in June, marine conditions get better and juvenile albacore migrate closer to the shores of British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. The majority of North Pacific albacore fishers begin their season in June, and fish until October when conditions worsen and fish migrate further offshore.
Albacore can live for 9 years and reach up to 60kg. The fish, like all tuna, are extremely fast swimmers with bodies that are highly evolved to chase down prey and swim long distances. Albacore migrate great distances across the Pacific Ocean, but North Pacific and South Pacific stocks are segregated.
Because of their migratory nature, the North Pacific albacore fishery is managed by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. In addition, Canada and the United States have signed the Canada-US Pacific Albacore Tuna Treaty that allows vessels to fish in the exclusive economic zone and to land catches in either country. More than 80% of the albacore catch is in the waters off of Oregon and Washington.
In the North Pacific, albacore tuna are caught by trollers, boats that tow individual barbless hooks in the water, usually 8-14 at a time. Each fish is individually hauled, making it a highly labour intensive process, but also resulting in a product of very high quality. Bycatch in the fishery is very low- while sharks or seabirds are occasionally caught, because the hooks are visible to crew most can be released quickly and easily. These factors have all lead to the fishery being labelled a Best Choice by SeaChoice; the fishery is also Marine Stewardship Council certified.
There are many types of tuna, and it can be difficult to determine what kind you are buying. If you are looking for fresh albacore, visit your local fish market and ask where and how it was caught. Albacore can be eaten raw, or prepared many different ways. My favourite is marinated in soya sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame oil and siriacha and seared on the BBQ. Or look here for many more recipes. Albacore tuna is also available canned, and brands such as Raincoast and Wild Planet consistently rank highest in the annual Greenpeace canned tuna report.