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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.

It is found in the open waters of all tropical and temperate oceans, and the Mediterranean Seamarker. Lengths range up to 140 cm and weights up to 45 kg.

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.

Consumers, albacore, and sustainable fisheries

semi-cooked Albacore
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 and line and troll fisheries ("pole and troll") as the 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 Aquariummarker 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

Mercury levels

Like other fish, albacore has methylmercury and accumulates in the blood stream 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 be present in a woman even before she becomes pregnant. The average canned albacore "white" or "solid" tuna is 0.35 ppm of methylmercury.
 Some groups  have urged testing and recall of older canned albacore that may have high mercury levels . Albacore caught with long-line fishing gear are older fish and have accumulated more mercury than younger, pole and line, or troll-caught 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" or "solid 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 Bay Aquariummarker Seafood Watch program lists pole and troll caught Pacific albacore from the U.S. and Canadian fisheries as a "Best Choice" in its sustainability rankings.

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 Oceanmarker 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.

Other species called albacore

In some parts of the world, other species may be called "albacore":

References

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