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 tunas in the Pacific Ocean region. Intereseted parties should contact AFRF for more details and procedures for submitting proposals.
Archival Tagging Project:
Albacore tuna are fished across the North Pacific, and extensive fisheries exist on the same stock of fish in Asia and North America. Albacore are fished off Japan in a pole-and-line fishery, and from Asia into the central Pacific by various international longline fisheries, and in the central to eastern Pacific by the U.S. troll fishery. Until recently there has been little management of albacore tuna. However, the U.S. is developing national management through a federal "highly migratory management" plan. Also, there are plans to develop international management through one or more international bodies in the future.
Albacore tuna is becoming increasingly important to the economy of coastal communities in Washington, Oregon, and California because of declines in the abundance of traditional salmon and bottom fish stocks. To protect the U.S. fishing interests and to ensure the health and sustainability of this resource, a great deal of research is needed.
For both national and international management, there is a strong need to identify and document migration routes and the relationship of stocks to harvest regions. Important specific informational needs include interactions between albacore stocks and the Japanese pole-and-line fishery, the U.S. troll fishery, and the various international longline fisheries. The life history of albacore is only partially known, and major life history parameters have been invalidated.
A tagging program utilizing archival tags is proposed as a method of obtaining a significant amount of the needed distributional and life history information for north Pacific albacore tuna. The primary goals of this project are:
Should the program prove successful, it will provide the basis for an expanded program that, it is hoped, will have international participation from Japan, Taiwan, Canada, and other nations fishing albacore in the north Pacific Ocean.
Japan has tagged eight albacore using archival tags: six fish at 34'N latitude/154'E longitude in May 2000 and two fish at 44'N latitude/164'E longitude in September 2000. Sizes ranged between 50 and 74 cm (fork length). Pole-and-line gear was used to catch the fish that were tagged. No tags have been recovered to date. Japanese scientists also have experience (archival) tagging small northern bluefin tuna from troll fisheries.
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.
This project was started in 2002 with Jill Jensen, project cooordinator, and Oregon State University doing the testing and analysis of albacore samples taken during the North Pacific seasons. The 2003 FINAL REPORT, 2003 Lipid Data and the 2002 FINAL REPORT , 2002 Lipid Dataare 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.
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 a hundred 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 to 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. Since 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 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 Rlexibilty Act that government consider economic factors while forming a Fisheries Management Plan. For further information, there is a paper by Dr. David Schnares available online in PDF format.
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.
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.
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 details or copies of previous research reports, email us.