Research

Pacific Albacore Research by AFRF:

Ongoing projects conducted by the American Fishermen’s Research Foundation include the Archival Tagging project, a 2002 Lipid Content project, and the AFRF/NMFS Economic Survey.

AFRF is always open to suggestions from government agencies, universities, students, and private research groups for new albacore research and public education projects that deal with albacore tuna in the Pacific Ocean region. Intereseted parties should contact AFRF for more details and procedures for submitting proposals.

The AFRF proposed a tagging program to realize the objective of understanding North Pacific albacore movements well enough to be able to use them effectively in stock assessment and for development of management guidelines. In 2001 AFRF contributed $60,000 to a joint AFRF/NMFS feasibility study to evaluate the potential for tagging albacore tuna. The trial program was conducted aboard a pole-and-line (bait) boat between September and November off central and southern California. This trial study showed that tags can be successfully implanted in albacore tuna, and indicated the feasibility of a cooperative government/industry program for future tagging. The success of any tagging program is greatly enhanced when industry is a full partner in the program, and leads to greater diligence in recovering tags. The high cost of archival tags warrants fostering a high interest level among fishermen in the program.

Recovery rates of conventional dart tags have averaged about 4 percent. Recovery rates of archival tags in other tuna species have been as high as 25 percent. To achieve adequate recoveries at a projected return rate of 10 percent, it is estimated that a minimum of 500 tags must be released over a 5-year period.

Lipid (fat) Content of Albacore:

This project was started in 2002 with Jill Jensen, project coordinator, and Oregon State University doing the testing and analysis of albacore samples taken during the North Pacific seasons. The 2003 FINAL REPORT2003 Lipid Data and the 2002 FINAL REPORT , 2002 Lipid Data are online in PDF format.

INTRO to the study:

Lipid Content in Troll-Caught Albacore tuna and Correlations with Geographical Location, Physical Measurements and Seasonality — Rosalee Rasmussen, Sean Carroll. Sample Coordination: Gayle Parker. Laboratory Analysis: Rosalee Rasmussen.

Pacific Alabacore tuna

Pacific Albacore tuna

Albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga) is a migratory fish found in the temperate and tropical oceans of the world. Three- to four-year-old albacore begin their journey off the coast of Japan and migrate across the Pacific Ocean where they arrive off the coast of California in the spring (Kimura et al 1997). They work their way northward feeding along the West Coast upwelling front. Their offshore range is approximately 20 to more than 100 nautical miles off the Pacific Coastline. It is this close proximity that allows small-scale troll fishing vessels to harvest albacore during summer months.

The West Coast troll-caught albacore fishery season lasts from June through October each year and the albacore is primarily sold as frozen, whole fish that is further processed as a canned product in foreign and domestic markets. Albacore has good market value compared with other fisheries in the Pacific Northwest; however, the potential to market this fish using public opinion as well as its nutritional aspects is very high. Firstly, West Coast troll-caught albacore is a small-scale fishery based out of rural coastal port cities aiding to its marketability as a locally caught small-scale seafood product. Secondly, there is very little by-catch as compared with many other fisheries, and the stock is considered sustainable (Cox et al. 2002). The marketing of these aspects could promote a positive public opinion of the albacore fishery. Lastly, albacore has high nutritional value in both its protein content and Omega-3 fat content. Omega-3 fatty acids have recently gained public attention for their numerous health benefits (Nettleton, 1995).

At the present time, the market value of albacore is directly proportional to its fat content. The cannery market prefers a low lipid content albacore while the Asian and Spanish markets prefer albacore with high lipid content. Lipids affect the flavor and sensory characteristics of seafood products in general. Products that contain high lipid content generally have a smooth texture, enhanced flavor and increased overall acceptability. A greater understanding of lipids in albacore is essential in developing the albacore market to its full potential. Because albacore market value is dependent on lipid content, there is also a great need for a method to measure lipid content quickly. Lipid content is inversely proportional to moisture content in albacore muscle, which could allow for a rapid and indirect measurement of lipid content (Love 1997). Such a method would help fishermen classify albacore quickly and maximize the profitability of individual fish. This preliminary analysis is part of an ongoing West Coast albacore lipid study to determine the year-to-year patterns between lipid content and moisture, weight, length, harvest date and catch location.

AFRF/NMFS Fleet Economic Survey:

AFRF was contracted by the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission to conduct an economic survey of the U.S. albacore troll fleet. The data collected will be used in building the Fisheries Management Plan for Highly Migratory Species — specifically in this case, albacore tuna. This survey samples a cross-section of the jig/baitboat fleet and includes offshore, inshore, large, small, and other aspects of the troll fleet. The information is part of a requirement under the Regulatory Flexibility Act that government consider economic factors while forming a Fisheries Management Plan.

The economic survey project was completed in August 2002 and data were provided to NMFS. Funding for this project was provided by the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission.

Length Frequency At-Sea Measurements:

NMFS funding was reduced for port sampling along the West Coast, and will be restricted to San Pedro, California; Newport, Oregon; and Ilwaco, Washington as the only sites where government samplers will be available. This created a need for fishermen to do such sampling as a contribution to albacore research. NMFS proposed to instruct interested fishermen to perform this service and supplied the measuring tools purchased by AFRF.

For members landing in San Diego or San Pedro, call John Childers at (858)546-7192 or email him at John.Childers@noaa.gov at least one day in advance of expected time of arrival. Your call will assist the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in better coordinating sampling of landings in San Diego and San Pedro. Sampling provides vital information for stock assessment and fishery evaluation.

AFRF and the NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center are sponsoring a cooperative project to enhance length sampling of albacore landings in the California ports of Eureka and Morro Bay. WFOA fishermen landing in these ports who are interested in making a valuable contribution to albacore research by measuring 50 to 100 fish from their last day of fishing are encouraged to contact Dr. Paul Crone at (858)546-7079 to obtain instructions and a sampling kit.

Past Research:

Since its founding in 1971 AFRF has pursued numerous albacore-related research and education projects involving tagging, sea surface temperatures, CTD research, albacore migration patterns, weather related projects, logbook development, and other subjects. For a condensed list of projects see: AFRF-Past-Projects 1971-2016