Albacore Tuna

The Science

Unlike many fish, albacore tuna are unable to pump water through their gills, forcing them to constantly swim with their mouths open to force water over their gills. 

The Fishery

Since Albacore tuna are highly migratory species crossing over multiple international boundaries, management efforts require extensive international cooperation.

The Seafood

Albacore tuna is the only species that can labeled as “white” meat.

The Science

Taxonomic description

  • Albacore tuna can be identified by their metallic dark blue back and silver belly as well as their dark yellow first dorsal fin and pale yellow second dorsal fin. A deeply forked, crescent shaped tail fin helps generate the power needed to maintain its impressive speed [1]
  • Albacore tuna can reach up to 1.5 meters in length [2]

Distribution

  • Albacore tuna can be found in the tropical, sub-tropical, and temperate zones of the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans, including the Mediterranean sea [2]

Life history

  • Believed to reach a maximum of roughly 11-12 years [1]
  • Reach sexual maturity at 5-6 years and spawn from March through July (possibly multiple times per year). Pelagic spawners where females release between .8 to 2.6 million eggs. Fertilized eggs hatch within 24-48 hours [1]

Habitat

  • Epipelagic and mesopelagic species found in waters of 13.5° to 25.2° C [2]
  • Albacore tuna are top carnivores in the food chain feeding on anchovy, squid, and sardines. They are preyed upon by humans, sharks, billfish, and other tunas. [2]
  • Primarily feed by sight so they are limited to daytime feeding hours, although they have been known to occasionally feed at night [1]
  • Albacore tuna have been primarily used by humans as an essential food source

The Fishery

Albacore Tuna
roaming-the-planet/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Seasonal availability

  • Open year-round, highest availability from July to August [3]

Managing authority

  • NOAA Fisheries and Pacific Fishery Management Council manages California stock [3]
  • Western Pacific Fishery Management Council manages fishery in Pacific Islands [3]
  • Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission manage the fishery internationally [3]

Gear type

  • Longline, gillnet, pole and line, purse sein, trolling [4]. Longlines are prohibited in areas around Pacific Islands to protect monk seals and sea turtles [3]

Status of the fishery

  • According to 2015 and 2017 stock assessments, North and South Pacific stock is not overfished or at risk of being overfished due to successful regulation and monitoring programs [3]
  • Population size is above target levels [3]
  • Protective regulations include limits on longline permits, protected species workshops, and a vessel monitoring program [3]
  • International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific provides scientific analysis and recommendations to aid in conservation efforts

Potential ecosystem impacts

  • Since the gear associated with Albacore fishing rarely touches the seafloor, impacts to habitat are minimal compared to other methods [3]

The Seafood

Geographer/CC-BY-2.5

Edible portions

  • Entire fish is edible, most people only eat the muscle [5]

Description of meat

  • Soft when raw but quickly becomes firm when cooked. Only species of tuna considered “white” meat [5]

Culinary uses

  • Sold as steaks, loins, and canned.
  • Best served grilled or sautéed. Can be eaten as a steak or made into tuna salad, sandwiches, etc. [6]

Nutritional information   

  • High in protein and Omega 3 fatty acids [5]
  • Nutritional Table for canned albacore [7] 

Toxicity report

  • Main concern in albacore is mercury. Levels can sometimes be up to three times higher than other species of tuna. Children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should be conscious of intake [8] 

Seasonal availability

  • Year round

References

[1] Southwest Fisheries Science Center: Albacore Research. https://swfsc.noaa.gov/textblock.aspx?Division=FRD&id=1168&ParentMenuId=139. Web. 9/1/2018

[2] Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Web. http://biogeodb.stri.si.edu/caribbean/en/thefishes/species/2233. 9/1/2018

[3] NOAA Fisheries. Web. https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/species/pacific-albacore-tuna. 9/1/2018

[4] International Seafood Sustainability Foundation. Web. https://iss-foundation.org/about-tuna/fishing-methods/. 9/1/2018

[5] Pacific Seafood. Web. https://www.pacificseafood.com/products/details/albacore-tuna/. 9/1/2018

[6] Seafood Source. Web. https://www.seafoodsource.com/seafood-handbook/finfish/tuna-albacore. 9/1/2018

[7] Bumblebee. Web. http://www.bumblebee.com/products/tuna/bumble-bee-omega-3-prime-fillet-a.... 9/1/2018

[8] Environmental Defense Fund. Web. https://www.edf.org/oceans/mercury-alert-canned-tuna-safe. 9/1/2018