Albacore Tuna

The fishery

As one of the most iconic seafood species in the world, Tuna is world renowned for its popularity with chefs and seafood lovers. Most popular served raw as sashimi because of their buttery and tender texture, there are 15 species of wild Tuna in the ocean. Albacore Tuna are present in the waters of the Pacific Northwest.

The BC Tuna Fishermen’s Association (BCTA) co-manages the Albacore Tuna fishery in BC with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. This association is the voice of the BC Tuna industry, bringing information, guidance, and value to a dynamic industry. Tuna fishermen compete in a global industry, and the BCTA is dedicated to ensuring that BC Albacore Tuna maintains its high reputation as safe and high-quality.

About

Albacore Tuna are harvested using hook and line gear, also known as trolling. The jigs (hooks) are double-pronged, barbless, and un-baited. The hooks have a coloured plastic skirt resembling a colourful squid or fish, which attracts the strong eyesight of Tuna. Therefore, this fishery has very little by-catch because Albacore Tuna are the only species that can spot these plastic jigs. 8-15 jigs are dragged along the surface, simulating forage fish movements. The boat harvests Tuna while moving at a speed of 6 knots.

Hooked Tuna are brought up to the boat with hydraulic shivs or ‘tuna pullers’ and carefully drawn up close to the stern. Each fish is carefully lifted aboard by hand, and the Tuna are immediately stunned and then bled to prevent bruising and preserve flavour and texture. Fish are then washed and placed into the ship’s freezer hold, where the core temperature is quickly brought down to -30° C. This method of fishing is specific to B.C. Albacore Tuna; they catch virtually no other types of fish.

The harvest

Albacore Tuna are harvested using hook and line gear, also known as trolling. The jigs (hooks) are double pronged, barbless, and un-baited. They have a coloured plastic skirt, which looks like a colourful squid or fish. This attracts the strong eyesight of Tuna, therefore, there is very little by-catch in this fishery because Albacore Tuna are the only species to spot these plastic jigs. 8-15 jigs are dragged along the surface simulating forage fish movements. The boat harvests Tuna while they are moving at a speed of 6 knots.

Hooked tuna are brought up to the boat with hydraulic shivs or ‘tuna pullers’ and carefully drawn up close to the stern. Each fish is carefully lifted aboard by hand and the Tuna are immediately stunned then bled to prevent bruising and to preserve flavour and texture. Fish are then washed and placed into the ship’s freezer-hold where core temperature is quickly brought down to -30° C. This method of fishing is specific to B.C. Albacore Tuna, they catch virtually no other types of fish.

Learn more about hook and line harvesting. 

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Sustainability

The Albacore Tuna fishery is limited entry and seasonally managed. Since Tuna is a highly migratory species harvested in the open ocean, Canada and the USA must work together to manage the fishery.

Tuna vessel masters must record every harvested fish and submit it to Fisheries and Oceans Canada in their vessel logbooks. After the Department of Fisheries collects all the information on the amount of Tuna harvested that season, they will submit it to the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. From there, international third-party scientists will monitor the populations. The IATTC is the regional fisheries management organization responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and tuna-like species, associated species, and their ecosystems throughout the Eastern Pacific Ocean, from Canada to Chile. 

When

In Canadian waters, the fishery primarily takes place from July to September but can start earlier and run later depending on the migration of Albacore Tuna and the oceanic conditions. Fishing activity depends on markets, ocean and weather conditions, and fuel prices. Fishing efforts are influenced by the dynamics of other commercial fisheries—the BC Albacore Tuna fishery peaks typically in August and September.

When

In Canadian waters, the fishery primarily takes place from July to September but can start earlier and run later depending on the migration of Albacore Tuna and the oceanic conditions. Fishing activity depends on markets, ocean and weather conditions, and fuel prices. Fishing efforts are influenced by the dynamics of other commercial fisheries—the BC Albacore Tuna fishery peaks typically in August and September.

Where

The harvest of Pacific Albacore Tuna occurs in open waters, generally a significant distance from the shore. Tuna boats are equipped with large freezers onboard to keep the Tuna at optimal quality. Tuna fleets remain at sea for several weeks or months because the fishing grounds are so far offshore. 

During the Spring, Tuna follows the warm waters from Oregon up to Alaska. As the season changes to Fall and the water gets cooler, Tuna turns around and follows the warm waters back.

The market

Freshly harvested Albacore Tuna are hauled on board, stunned, and bled to preserve their quality. The fish are only on deck for 10 to 30 minutes before they are immediately flash-frozen. Freezing immediately ensures that the fish remains in perfect condition while the boat remains at sea.

Fish are unloaded at ports along the West Coast, sorted by size, and then sold directly by the fishermen to the consumer or to fish buyers operating in communities along the coast. The catch is landed frozen and purchased for distribution to domestic and international consumption as sashimi and other premium-grade products.