Products

Albacore Tuna

Thunnus alalunga

Market Name(s): Tombo, Tombo ahi (given to large red-meated albacore from Hawaii and the South Pacific); Pacific albacore.

Contact Purchasing
Albacore Tuna
  • Primary Source: Fresh longline: South Pacific islands, Fiji and Hawaii; Fresh troll-caught: Pacific Northwest; Frozen loins: Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia.
  • Season: Year-round, but heaviest landings from Hawaii and West Coast trollers are in late summer and early fall.
  • Primary Fishing Method: Longline and troll

Size Range:

Max Size: 70 lbs

Longline fish:
Avg. Size: 5 lbs

Troll-caught fish:
Avg. Size: 15-25 lbs

Product forms:

FRESH: Loins (7-12 lbs. average) skin-on, bloodline in; steaks skin-on, bloodline-in and fully trimmed (8 oz. average).

FROZEN: Loins, skin-off bloodline out, graded 3-5 lbs. And 5-12 lbs.

Storage & Handling

Never expose loins to direct contact with ice or water, as meat will become discolored. Color of red and pink-meated loins and steaks will begin to fade to brown after 3 to 5 days exposure to air; loins and steaks should be wrapped in plastic wrap to slow oxidation. Frozen loins will keep 6 months to a year.

Cooking Suggestions

Raw, the flesh from albacore is somewhat softer than bigeye or yellowfin, although it becomes firm when cooked. Albacore is excellent grilled and baked, but it can dry out quickly, so it is important to avoid overcooking. It is also well suited for marinades.

Selling Points

  • Tombo is an excellent value that has an exotic appeal and is a good menu alternative to more expensive yellowfin and bigeye.
  • Late summer is a good time to feature fresh tombo, as supplies are good and prices are normally at their lowest level of the year.
  • Fresh albacore loins are excellent in some foodservice applications and they sell for about $2/lb. less than fresh tombo loins.

Defects

  • Pale meat color in fresh tombo. Meat color should be pink or almost red.
  • Untrimmed bloodline on frozen loins.
  • Fillets with gray flesh color, skin specks, bones and parasites.
  • Blood spots are a sign of bruising and mishandling.
  • Spotty, uneven coating on breaded and battered products.
  • White cottony appearance indicates freezer burn.

The Pacific Advantage

  • Highly trained purchasing department, on site buyers at the Honolulu auction
  • Advanced training in handling histamine-producing species
  • Professional filleting and custom portioning techniques
  • Advanced H.A.C.C.P. program with full time inspection exceeding industry standards
  • North Pacific Albacore Tuna is high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  • Lower mercury content compared to other harvest areas
  • Pacific Seafood advanced product traceability system to assure food safety
  • Sashimi Quality
  • Product of USA

Summary

A wide-ranging member of the tuna family, albacore roam tropical and temperate waters throughout the world. Smaller albacore are mostly canned, while the larger fish are either frozen or sold fresh. Worldwide, more than 200,000 metric tons of albacore are caught each year, making albacore the third most valuable tuna resource after yellowfin and skipjack.

 Big albacore from Hawaii and the South Pacific, where it is called tombo, has very pink, almost red meat. As a rule, fresh tombo loins are available for about $2/lb. less than yellowfin ahi or bigeye ahi loins. Think of it as ahi, but at a bargain price.

 Fresh tombo is available year-round, with most of the supply coming from Hawaii, Fiji and Western Samoa. These big albacore, which average about 60 pounds, are an excellent value, especially in the late summer and fall when landings are normally at their highest levels of the year. This fish is caught by longliners, who fish the deep ocean currents at depths of 75 to 150 fathoms.

The market for fresh tombo is growing rapidly, especially along the West Coast. Over the past three years alone, U.S. imports of fresh albacore from the South Pacific have grown from less than 500 tons to more than 1,000 tons. The Hawaiian fishery, meanwhile, produces an annual catch of about 1,500 tons of albacore a year.

Longliners that fish for the fresh market may stay at sea for as long as two weeks, but how the fish was handled is more important than the length of the trip. Fish that comes aboard live and is well iced can retain its high quality for up to three weeks.

 Most albacore is caught by large freezer (“clipper”) longliners, trollers and seiners. Trollers and seiners land mostly smaller fish (usually less than 20 pounds) near the surface. These small fish, most of which are brine frozen and sold to canneries, have much whiter flesh and less oil. In the summer, a fleet of trollers operates off the U.S. West Coast and some of this small, light-colored fish shows up in the fresh or frozen market, especially in years when the price paid by canneries is low. This smaller, troll-caught albacore sells for less than half the price of larger, red-meated tombo.

Albacore caught by freezer longliners are often larger fish that are delivered to processors in Asia, who process these fish and export frozen, trimmed loins to the U.S. Because it is held at conventional (-10 to 0°F) cold storage temperatures, the meat from this albacore will be brownish in color, although like red-meated albacore it will cook up to an off white color.