Our Albacore come from the troll/jig fishery now certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council
by Craig Weatherby
All of our premium Albacore Tuna—both canned and flash-frozen—is individually troll-caught in remote North Pacific waters by second generation fisherman Paul Hill.
Paul—who is our neighbor in Bellingham, Washington—works almost like a recreational fisherman, using shallow-depth, single-hook lines to catch one Tuna at a time: a method called “troll/jig” fishing.
As soon as he hooks a fish, Paul hauls it aboard to be flash-frozen within about two hours.
And to ensure that Vital Choice Tuna occupy the tip of the pinnacle with regard to purity (mercury content), we select only the smallest of Paul’s catch—fish weighing no more than 12 lbs.
To see how low in mercury our Albacore is in comparison with standard Tuna, click here.
(Picking smaller fish does not threaten sustainability, both because the North Pacific Albacore fishery is so healthy and because Albacore Tuna are extraordinarily prolific breeders, starting well before they reach this size.)
North Pacific troll-caught tuna fishery gets sustainability nod
We’ve always been confident that the Tuna we sold came from a fully sustainable fishery, and this judgment has been shared by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.
Now, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has ratified the Aquarium’s opinion by certifying the North Pacific troll-caught Tuna fishery sustainable.
This means that you can enjoy our Albacore with the assurance that your choice will not deplete Tuna stocks.
The technical report that led to MSC certification of the North Pacific troll-caught Tuna fishery makes four key points:
- “…this fishery represents a small proportion of the total fishing pressure on this stock [i.e., commercial Tuna].”
- “Significant strengths of the fishery in relation to the MSC [sustainability] standard derive from the intrinsically low-impact nature of the gear used.”
- “Hook and line trolling and pole-and-line fishing for albacore are notably ‘clean’ fishing methods that catch one fish at a time.”
- “Both fishing methods catch target species almost exclusively and bycatch of non-target species is relatively rare.”
In addition to extraordinary purity, Vital Choice Albacore offer superior eating and nutritional quality.
Large commercial canneries cook their Tuna twice. First, they bake the fish whole on a rack, which results in a loss of beneficial omega-3 oils. Then it is de-boned and packed in cans along with flavorings and chemical additives (e.g., pyrophosphate or hydrolyzed casein). The cans are sealed, and the fish is cooked again. This process allows the companies to raise productivity, but this economic gain comes at considerable cost to culinary and nutritional quality.
In contrast, our troll-caught Albacore Tuna is packed into the can raw and cooked only once to preserve all its natural oils and flavor. This difference in processing methods means that canned troll-caught Albacore Tuna contains substantially more omega-3s per serving, compared with the major national brands.
Paul Hill: man on a marine mission
Lifelong fisherman Paul Hill is our exclusive Albacore supplier. As he describes the process, “We land fish one at a time—as soon as they take the hook—and then freeze them right away. Our gear is specially designed for trolling, so we get virtually no bycatch of other species and present no threat to the albacore population.”
From May through October, Paul sails from Puget Sound in his 80-foot troller, for long journeys to the North Pacific with his crew of three. The team takes either "short" 40-day trips to deep, cold waters, or longer 60-70 day trips to the vicinity of remote Midway Island, the famed World War II sea battle site that lies equidistant from Hawaii and the Aleutian Islands, and thousands of miles from civilization.
All of the Albacore we get from Paul comes from his trips to these remote North Pacific waters, where premium-quality albacore dwell. Even during the relatively calm summer-fall months, these trips are serious expeditions, beyond the reach of amateurs or the faint-hearted.
Once brought on board, whole Tuna are placed in the flash-freezer within twenty minutes, and frozen solid within two hours.
As Paul says, after a lifetime of eating experience, “These flash-frozen Tuna taste fresher than any fresh Tuna you—or I—can buy. The fish remains completely frozen from the time it’s captured to the time it is canned or removed from the freezer. It’s almost as if you caught the fish yourself and cooked it on the spot.”
Vital Choice is proud to support independent fisherman like Paul Hill, who are committed to providing premium quality, sustainably harvested seafood.
And we're gratified that the Marine Stewardship Council has joined the Monterey Bay Aquarium in viewing the troll/jig Albacore fishery as fully sustainable.
- Monterey Bay Aquarium. Tuna, Albacore. Accessed online February 2, 2008 at http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_factsheet.aspx?gid=67
- Marine Stewardship Council. AAFA North Pacific Public certification report, September 6, 2007. Accessed online February 2, 2008 at http://www.msc.org/assets/docs/AAFA_PAtuna/North_Pacific_Final_Report_Sept07