Posted on Fri, September 07, 2012 by Slow Food USA
2 Comments | Categories: Biodiversity, Seafood,
Written by Jeremy Brown, Fisherman, Slow Food member and 2008 Terra Madre delegate
Albacore, Thunnus Alolonga, are the only tuna that can be sold as “white meat’. In many ways the polar opposite of the Bluefin beloved of the sushi trade and poster fish for fisheries run wild. Albacore’s ecological niche is on the fringes- they swim further, faster deeper and more scattered into cooler waters than most tunas. This makes them less vulnerable to fishing pressure, and particularly hard to catch on an industrial scale.
Older fish swim deeper in more tropical water and are principally caught on pelagic longline gear, younger fish frequent the surface waters along the sub tropical convergence zones of the world’s oceans which is where they can be caught by jigs trolled on the surface or chummed up with bait in the classic pole-and-line fisheries.
Off the West Coast the bulk of the catch is taken by smaller trollers, owner-operators with one or two crew. Caught one at a time, the fish are individually handled and iced or frozen right away to preserve their quality- with a body temperature sometimes 8 degrees above water temperature, hot-blooded albacore need prompt and thorough cooling.
Traditionally most of the catch went to the big industrial canners, but in recent years there has been growing interest from restaurants, specialty seafood markets and discerning consumers. We have also seen a strong growth of local ‘micro-canneries, producing high quality artisanal pack, and a revival of interest in home canning.
Western Fishboat Owners Association, the principle fishermen’s group has produced a comprehensive website with resources, recipes and a directory of ports where you can buy fish direct off the boats.
Albacore is an excellent source of DHA and EPA, the long chain omega-3 fatty acids so important for good nutrition. Young albacore swim far offshore away from runoff and manmade pollution so are of low concern for contaminants. Both the Federal government and independent labs routinely monitor landings. The respected Oregon State University Seafood Center has published peer-reviewed results showing regional albacore to be well below all levels of concern.