FAO Fishing Area 67 — Northeast Pacific
Fish harvesters use colorful plastic lures called jigs or live bait, trailed at moderate speeds behind their vessels, to catch albacore tuna. Each fish is individually hooked. Once hooked, the fish is pulled in close behind the vessel with a hydraulic puller. Harvesters then haul in each tuna by hand for the last few feet to get it close enough to the vessel to be lifted aboard.
Trolling is a slow and selective method of harvesting tuna. Albacore tuna vessels average from 35 to 60 feet (10 to 18 metres) in length and have a captain and one or two crew. Trollers usually fish offshore and can stay at sea for weeks at a time, searching for areas where Albacore school and feed. The coastal fleet fishes within Canadian and U.S. fishing zones under the US/Canada Tuna Treaty and a high-seas fleet operates thousands of miles away in the North Pacific.
The most distinct feature of a troller is its long poles or outriggers which are secured to its mast by a crosstree. When fishing, the poles are spread apart forming a v-shape. The poles prevent the lines and jigs from tangling while trolling at up to six knots (7 km/h). Fishermen can have from 8 to 14 lines in the water at once.
Trolling has a low impact on marine habitats and a negligible rate of bycatch (unwanted fish). A number of measures address conservation in the Albacore tuna troll fishery. These include:
Seafood Watch - Best Choice
Marine Stewardship Council - Certified
Ocean Wise - Recommended
FishWatch - Click for status
Jul 01 - Oct 31
NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific and Western Pacific Fishery Management Councils collaborate in the management of albacore fisheries in cooperation with the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.
The International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean conducts stock assessments on Albacore tuna.
Troll-caught albacore tuna are known for their high quality and freshness. The slow-paced and selective nature of trolling means that each tuna is individually hauled aboard by hand, cleaned, washed and frozen aboard the vessel. For this reason, quality—rather than quantity—is the hallmark of troll-caught wild albacore tuna.
The albacore are frozen using chilled brine, blast and plate freezing to a core temperature of -30 degrees Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit). Freezing begins shortly after the tuna are caught so that when the fish is thawed it has the quality of being freshly caught. That’s why fishermen refer to their catch as “fresh-frozen”. Albacore are mostly canned as “white meat” tuna or are thawed and served fresh in restaurants and grocery stores.