The Albacore Tuna Fishery

Albacore Tuna are fast-growing, highly migratory and live in the offshore regions of most of the world’s oceans. In the eastern North Pacific they can be found from Mexico to the Gulf of Alaska. Albacore Tuna mature at five or six years and can live for up to twelve years. The majority of the Albacore Tuna we catch are juvenile fish, three to fours years of age.

The eastern North Pacific Albacore Tuna stocks are monitored and managed internationally by agreement under the auspices of the United Nations. We are registered with the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Association (IATTC) for fishing south of 50° N and are permitted to fish in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) Convention Area (west of 150° W).

By mid-June the NERKA#1 joins a scattered fleet of American and Canadian boats in a vast area off southern Oregon, scouting for the arriving schools of juvenile Albacore Tuna. As the season progresses the currents and the fish push up along the coast. By September we can often be fishing off the coast of Haida Gwaii.

Finding fish in the vastness of the eastern North Pacific is akin to playing a three-dimensional chess game, where you can’t see your opponent’s pieces. To help us fish more efficiently we communicate with a number of Albacore Tuna fishermen from both the USA and Canada and use some of the latest satellite technology to gather water temperature, salinity, plankton concentrations, etc. Often, though, we rely on the ancient fishing methods of observation, deduction, and intuition.

The Albacore Tuna we catch are surface feeders and will come up from as deep as 70 metres to take an artificial lure or jig. Once hooked, the fish are brought into the boat, stunned, bled, and thoroughly washed. The fish are immediately put on freezer plates in the hold, where they are quickly frozen to -30° C. Fast freezing and extremely cold temperatures ensure that our fish maintains its high quality from the moment it’s caught until you serve it.

When the hold is full or the weather turns to storms, the boat returns to the nearest port. The fish are off-loaded, the boat is re-fuelled and fixed, fresh groceries are brought on board, the crew gets a well-earned night’s sleep, then they are away again before daybreak. Off for another 2 to 3 weeks far offshore. This is the NERKA’s routine for most of the summer and fall.