Page 14 - Hawaii Seafood Buyers Guide

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I. Biological Description
Tombo ahi (Thunnus alalunga) is commonly
known as albacore tuna. Other names for this
species include Pacific albacore, tombo, and
“white meat” tuna. The tombo ahi caught in the
vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands are large (over 40
pounds in round weight) adult fish. Smaller,
immature tombo migrate extensively throughout
the North Pacific far north of the Hawaiian Islands.
II. Of Special Interest For Buying/Distributing
Availability And Seasonality:
Commercial landings of tombo ahi have increased in Hawaii. Tombo ahi
is seasonally available in significant quantities, but is scarce in the off-season. The peak in landings
usually occurs from May through September. There are also wide fluctuations in the annual catch of
tombo ahi. Availability is greatly influenced by oceanographic conditions. Tombo ahi is believed to
migrate along ocean temperature “edges” rich in food, hence, disruption of ocean-wide current
systems, such as brought about by “El Nino” weather, may affect catch rates in Hawaii.
Fishing Methods:
Most of the tombo ahi catch in Hawaii is landed by commercial longline boats
which set hooks at the swimming depths of the large tombo (75-150 fathoms). A small portion of the
catch is made by the small-boat handline (ika-shibi) fishery based on the island of Hawaii.
The longline catch and much of the handline (ika-shibi) catch of tombo ahi is marketed
through the Honolulu fish auction. The remainder of the handline catch is sold through the fish
auction in Hilo and through intermediary buyers on that island.
Most of the albacore caught in Hawaiian waters consist of mature fish, 40 to 80 pounds in round
weight. Most of this fish is sold fresh, but surpluses caught during the peak summer season are
sometimes smoked.
Despite having a pinkish rather than reddish flesh, tombo ahi occasionally substitutes
for other species of ahi or for aku in raw fish preparations. It is completely interchangeable with other
ahi or a‘u species in broiled or sauted forms, although it may be more susceptible to overcooking
than the other species. Tombo is also interchangeable with other tuna and marlin (a‘u) for dried and
smoked products.
III. Of Special Interest For Preparation/Quality Control
Shelf Life And Quality Control:
Some longline boats which catch tombo ahi are at sea for up to 10-12
days, but with proper care, the fish will retain a high quality for three weeks after capture (see Table
3). Although not as old when landed, the quality of handline-caught tombo is more variable because
of differences in handling by the small-boat tuna fleet.
Tombo (Albacore Tuna)