The albacore, Thunnus alalunga, is a type of tuna in the family Scombridae. This species is also called albacore fish, albacore tuna, longfin, albies, pigfish, tombo ahi, binnaga, Pacific albacore, German bonito (but see bonito), 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.
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 30% of the total length. The dorsal spines are 11 to 14 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.
The International Scientific Committee (ISC) conducts regularly scheduled stock assessments of Pacific albacore. The 2006 stock assessment found the albacore stocks to be at or near record highs. The North and South Pacific albacore stocks are not overfished. The ISC findings are accepted by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission and the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission and employed in the responsible management of Pacific albacore tuna stocks.
Regrettably, the same cannot be said for Atlantic stocks of albacore. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has not re-assessed Albacore in over 10 years, and the last assessment given (from 1996) was "data deficient". Other assessments of the North and South Atlantic stocks from the same period showed them to be vulnerable and critically endangered respectively, due to significant population reductions measured through an index of abundance and considering "actual or potential levels of exploitation". No similar finding was made regarding Pacific albacore, which are believed to be at or near historically high spawning stock levels.
Consumers are increasingly concerned about the sustainability of 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).
The Marine Stewardship Council, after extensive review of the best available science, declared the U.S. North and South Pacific albacore pole & line and troll fisheries ("pole & troll") as the first and only certified sustainable tuna fisheries in the world.
U.S. albacore vessels are eligible for the MSC certification through a certification-sharing program administered by the American Albacore Fishing Association.
Products from MSC certified sustainable fisheries are readily identifiable by the MSC's distinctive blue and white "eco-label".
The MSC certification program establishes that the seafood product is traceable to the certified sustainable fishery.
By purchasing products bearing the MSC eco-label, consumers express their support for sustainable fisheries and encourage the use of sound fishing methods that promote the future health and abundance of ocean ecosystems.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch has a consumer education program to raise awareness about the importance of buying seafood from sustainable sources. This program recommends which seafoods to buy or avoid, and help consumers to become advocates for environmentally friendly seafood.
The mission of the Aquarium's Seafood Watch program is to empower consumers and businesses to make choices for healthy oceans. Helpful publications and guides are available upon request.
The NOAA Fishwatch program aims to provide concise fishery information to consumers. FishWatch can help consumers make informed decisions about the seafood they eat.
The government's Fishwatch program seeks to provide consumers with accurate and timely information on U.S. seafood fisheries. NOAA Fishwatch - Pacific albacore
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. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises women of childbearing age and children to limit their consumption of albacore tuna (chunk white canned tuna) and tuna steaks to six ounces 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.
The Monterey Fish Market Seafood Sustainability Advisory list claims that fishery researchers generally agree that the North Pacific albacore population is a healthy stock at the current time. The list considers the North Pacific albacore fishery to be "eco-friendly", in that there is very little by-catch and no impact on fishery habitat. Also, unlike some other tuna species, albacore do not usually swim with dolphins - and for this reason there is not a dolphin-associated albacore fishery anywhere in the world.
SeaChoice ranks albacore as a "best choice" for consumers, although notes some "moderate concerns" regarding the management effectiveness (in particular, no definitive survey 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 not considered overfished. The North Pacific and South Pacific albacore stocks are not overfished and not experiencing overfishing.