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Albacore, troll-caught by WFOA and OAC members, received the MSC seal of sustainability in March 2010. (Photo: wfoa-tuna.org/FIS)

Demand for local albacore tuna on the rise

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Friday, October 07, 2011, 23:30 (GMT + 9)

Demand for sustainable, Northwest albacore was greater than ever this summer, despite a slow start to the season caused by unfavourable weather conditions. The increase in demand is part of a wider trend of Northwest consumers seeking out locally-caught seafood.

To meet the demand, Whole Foods Markets in the Pacific Northwest expanded their annual sale of the US-caught tuna, with events in all Oregon and Washington stores and, for the first time, in British Columbia.

The events were held in conjunction with local, commercial fishing groups, the Western Fishboat Owners Association (WFOA) and the Oregon Albacore Commission (OAC). The albacore featured in the cooking demonstrations and whole fish sales was sustainably troll-caught by Washington, Oregon and California fishermen off the West coast.

Marketing activities included cooking demonstrations, albacore BBQs, and product information. The centrepiece of the summer promotion was a series of highly anticipated “Truck Sales” at select Whole Foods Markets which gave customers the rare opportunity to buy whole, fresh albacore and have them filleted by a team of expert fish cutters.

 (Photo: Western Fishboat Owners Association)



Whole Foods sold more certified-sustainable, US albacore this August and September than in previous years, despite the slow fishing season. “People can’t seem to get enough of this seasonal tuna in the Northwest,” says Whole Foods Regional Seafood Coordinator, Mark Curran. “They love being able to pick out a whole fish and then have someone else do all the dirty work!” he joked.

"Over the past four years we've seen an uptick in the number of shoppers actively seeking out local fish," says Wayne Heikkila, Executive Director of the WFOA, a non-profit association representing around 400 fishing vessels and supporting businesses on the West coast. "People are interested in supporting the local fishing community and they love knowing where, how, and who caught their dinner!"
 
Nancy Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the Oregon Albacore Commission added, "the Oregon Albacore Commission was pleased to work with Whole Foods during the truck sale events which provided an opportunity for the Commission to increase public awareness of the benefits of buying and eating local albacore and that this supports our fishermen and coastal communities."   

  (Photo: Western Fishboat Owners Association)

Albacore, troll-caught by WFOA and OAC members, received the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) seal of sustainability in March 2010. The groups are working to increase albacore sales at MSC-certified retailers. Whole Foods Market Inc. was one of the first American companies to support and participate in the Marine Stewardship Council chain of custody programme.
 
“We hope that the ongoing success of these promotions will encourage other supermarkets to consider US albacore for their fish counters,” says Heikkila.
 
The Whole Foods partnership is part of WFOA’s broader public education campaign, which aims to increase domestic sales of premium, US albacore. Approximately 80 per cent of American albacore is exported to Europe and Japan for the sushi market. Conversely, 86 per cent of seafood consumed in the US is imported.


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