Pacific Albacore Tuna
Albacore is one of the smallest members of the tuna family and a highly migratory fish that roams all the world’s oceans. Two separate and distinct stocks of albacore live in the Pacific Ocean, one in the north and the other in the south. About 40 percent of all albacore live in the North Pacific and these tend to be younger fish.
A metallic, dark blue back and dusky to silvery white belly distinguishes the albacore tuna. The fish has exceptionally long pectoral fins – as much as 30 percent of the tuna’s total length – and have streamlined, torpedo-shaped bodies adapted to fast and continuous swimming. The average market size is between 10 and 40 pounds (4.5 to 18 kg). Albacore has a delicate flavour and famously light pink flesh that turns ivory or creamy white when cooked.
Albacore tuna have a life span of 11 to 12 years, but they reach reproductive maturity at around five to six years. At this point, spawning occurs – usually from March to July, but some evidence suggests albacore spawn multiple times a year. During spawning, females produce between 800,000 and 2.6 million eggs, broadcasting them near the sea surface where they are fertilized. The tiny eggs (1 mm in diameter) remain buoyant by an enclosed oil droplet and develop very rapidly after spawning. They hatch within 24 to 48 hours. Juvenile tuna remain in the spawning grounds until their second year when, during spring, they begin the northern migration up the North American coast.
This fishery uses a longline to catch a variety of pelagic fish on the high seas such as tuna and swordfish. A deep-set longline is used to primarily target tuna and a shallow-set longline is used to target swordfish or mixed species including bigeye, Albacore and yellowfin tuna. Baited hooks are attached to a line that floats in the ocean using buoys and flagpoles.
This fishery uses a variety of artisanal hook-and-line methods to catch coastal pelagic fish such as tuna, marlin, swordfish, mahi mahi, wahoo (ono) and others. A pole and line with live bait scattered into the water is used to catch feeding skipjack tuna. Trolling with lures and lines, and handlines with lures, lines and bait bags are used to target larger fish such as bigeye tuna, swordfish, mahi mahi and wahoo.
Fish harvesters use colourful plastic lures called jigs, trailed at moderate speeds behind their vessels, to catch albacore tuna.