Albacore, Thunnus alalunga

The Albacore, (Thunnus alalunga), also known as the Albacore Tuna, Albicore, Longfin, Albies, Pigfish, Tombo ahi, Binnaga, Pacific Albacore, German Bonito, Longfin Tuna, Longfin Tunny, and just Tuna, is a species of fish in the Scombridae family. It is the only species of tuna they is marketed as “white meat tuna” in the United States. It is found in open waters of all tropical and temperate oceans and the Mediterranean Sea.

The adult Albacore measure up to 4.5 feet in length and weighs up to 99 pounds. Its pectoral fins are very long, as much as 50 percent of the total length of the fish. The dorsal spines are 8 to 10 in number, and well forward of the rays of the dorsal fin. The anterior spines are much longer, giving a concave outline to the spiny part of the dorsal fin.

Albacore is a prized and economically significant food source in the United States. Fishing methods include pole and line, long-line fishing, trolling, and some purse seining. It is also a sport fish.

The Marine Stewardship Council and other programs have been created to help consumers identify and support responsible and sustainable fisheries. Several fisheries have been certified as sustainable according to MSC standards, including the US North And South Pacific albacore pole and line and troll fisheries, Canadian north Pacific fishery, and the New Zealand troll fishery.

The US government’s Fishwatch program seeks to provide consumers with accurate and timely info on US seafood fisheries.

Greenpeace International added the Albacore to its “seafood red list” in 2010. The red list is a list of fish commonly sold in supermarkets around the world that have a very likely risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries.

Albacore, among others, accumulates methyl-mercury in body tissue over time. Methyl-mercury is removed from the body naturally, but it may take years for levels to drop significantly, and can remain in a woman’s body from before and throughout pregnancy, posing dangers to the unborn child. The average canned albacore “white” or “solid” tuna contains 0.35 ppm of methyl-mercury.

Recent studies from the US and Canada show that Albacore caught by the American albacore fleet off the coasts of Washington, Oregon and California have much less levels of mercury than in previous years.

The US Food and Drug Administration advises women of childbearing age and children to limit consumption of albacore tuna and tuna steaks to six ounces or less per week. However, the FDA advisory does not distinguish the Albacore caught off the West Coast from Albacore caught in other parts of the world.

Albacore is highly abundant, except for the Indian Ocean stock and perhaps the North Atlantic Albacore population, which the National Marine Fisheries Service considers over-fished with over-fishing still occurring. The southern Atlantic stock is also considered over-fished but not currently experiencing over-fishing. The North Pacific and South Pacific albacore stocks are not over-fished and not experiencing over-fishing.

Image Caption: Albacore caught on fishline. Credit: NOAA FishWatch/Wikipedia