The albacore, Thunnus alalunga, is a type of tuna in the family Scombridae. This species is also called albacore fish, albacore tuna, albicore, albie, pigfish, tombo ahi, binnaga, Pacific albacore, German bonito (but see bonito), longfin, longfin tuna, longfin tunny, or even just tuna. It is the only tuna species which may be marketed as "white meat tuna" in the United States. It is found in the open waters of all tropical and temperate oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea. Lengths range up to 140 cm (4.6 ft) and weights up to 60.3 kg (133 lb).
Albacore is a prized food, and the albacore fishery is economically significant. Methods of fishing include pole and line, long-line fishing, trolling, and some purse seining. It is also sought after by sport fishers.
The pectoral fins of the albacore are very long, as much as 50% of the total length. 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.
Other species called albacore
In some parts of the world, other species may be called "albacore":
- Blackfin tuna Thunnus atlanticus (albacore)
- Yellowfin tuna Thunnus albacares (albacore, autumn albacore, yellowfinned albacore)
- Yellowtail amberjack Seriola lalandi (albacore)
- Kawakawa Euthynnus affinis (false albacore)
- Little tunny Euthynnus alletteratus (false albacore)
Consumers, albacore, and sustainable fisheries
A number of programs have been developed to help consumers identify and support responsible and sustainable fisheries. Perhaps the most widely accepted of these programs is that of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Several albacore fisheries have been certified as sustainable according to MSC standards, including the U.S. North and South Pacific albacore pole & line and troll/jig fisheries ("pole & troll"), Canadian North Pacific troll fishery, and the New Zealand South Pacific troll fishery.
The United States government's "Fishwatch" program seeks to provide consumers with accurate and timely information on U.S. seafood fisheries.
In 2010, Greenpeace International added the Albacore to its "seafood red list". "The Greenpeace International seafood red list is a list of fish that are commonly sold in supermarkets around the world, and which have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries."
Like other fish, albacore accumulates methylmercury in body tissue over time. Methylmercury is removed from the body naturally, but it may take over a year for the levels to drop significantly. Thus, it may remain in a woman from before she becomes pregnant. The average canned albacore "white" or "solid" tuna is 0.35 ppm of methylmercury. Some groups[who?] have urged testing and recall of older canned albacore that may have high mercury levels.
Recent studies from the U.S. and Canada show that the albacore caught by the American albacore fishing fleet off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California have far lower mercury levels than in previous years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises women of childbearing age and children to limit their consumption of albacore tuna ("chunk white" or "solid white" ) and tuna steaks to 6 ounces (170 g) per week or less. However, the FDA advisory does not distinguish the albacore caught off the West Coast from albacore caught in other parts of the world.
Lightly cooked albacore steak
Management and stock assessment are applied to separate stocks of albacore believed to occur in the North Pacific, South Pacific, Indian Ocean, North Atlantic and South Atlantic.
SeaChoice ranks albacore as a "best choice" for consumers, although notes some "moderate concerns" regarding the management effectiveness (in particular, no definitive assessment of the albacore stock of the Indian Ocean fishery has taken place), and "moderate concern" over the fishing stock, especially regarding the North Atlantic albacore population, which the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) considers overfished with overfishing still occurring. The southern Atlantic stock is also considered (in 2007) overfished but not currently experiencing overfishing. The North Pacific and South Pacific albacore stocks are not overfished and are not experiencing overfishing.
- Collette B and 34 others (2011). "Thunnus alalunga". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/21856. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
- Marine Stewardship Council. "List of all certified fisheries". MSC.org. http://www.msc.org/track-a-fishery/certified/all-certified-fisheries. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
- NOAA Fishwatch - Pacific albacore
- "Greenpeace International Seafood Red list". Greenpeace. http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/oceans/seafood/red-list-of-species/. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
- "What You Need to Know about Mercury in Fish and Shellfish". US EPA. Archived from the original on 5 October 2009. http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/fish/advice/. Retrieved 2009-10-15.
- "Draft Risk and Benefit Report: Section II, Exposure to Methylmercury in the United States". FDA. Archived from the original on 3 November 2009. http://www.fda.gov/Food/FoodSafety/Product-SpecificInformation/Seafood/FoodbornePathogensContaminants/Methylmercury/ucm173271.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-15.
- "Tuna: Albacore". SeaChoice. http://www.seachoice.org/profile/70/view. Retrieved 2007-02-21.
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