The canned tuna industry is over 100 years old. Tuna canning beganin the early 1900s to produce a substitute for canned sardines, and canned tuna quickly grew into one of the most popular seafood products in the world. Currently canned tuna is the second most frequently consumed seafood product. Catches less than 1% of the world wide tuna harvest. Over half of the catch is albacore with approximately 26 million pounds landed each year from 2004-10. Big eye and yellow fin are also harvested commercially in significant quantities. About 400 million pounds of canned tuna is imported only into the U.S. from other countries each year. The major suppliers of canned tuna are Thailand, Philippines, Ecuador and Indonesia. Imports of fresh and frozen tuna are primarily yellow fin tuna. The 5 main commercial tuna speciesare described below.
Albacore Tuna: Primarily sold in canned tuna as ‘white’ tuna meat. Most of the canned albacore is caught in the open waters of the Pacific. Albacore can live up to 12 years and can grow to 80 pounds in the open ocean. Albacore is primarily from the Pacific Coast but it is also caught in the Atlantic Ocean. It can be sold as fresh packed canned tuna or in loins.
Skipjack Tuna: Primarily sold as canned tuna and labeled as ‘light’ tuna. Almost all of the catch comes from the Pacific Ocean around Hawaii. The majority of fresh and frozen skipjack tuna sold is imported from Mexico, South Korea and Ecuador. Skipjack are smaller tuna that on average are 2 to 3 feet long andweigh 6 to 8 pounds.
Yellow fin Tuna: Yellow fin is often marketed as frozen tuna steaks or fresh loins or steaks. A small amount is canned as ‘light’ tuna meat mixed with skipjack. Yellowfin can grow up to 400 lbs and have a relatively short lifespan of 6 to 7years.
Big eye Tuna: Big eye is commonly marketed by its Hawaiian name ‘ahi’. Big eye tuna can grow to 6.5 feet long and live up to 10 years. Big eye is frequently served in sashimi or sushi dishes or as fresh or frozen steaks or loins.
Blue fin Tuna: Atlantic Blue fin tuna is the highest valued Atlantic tuna specie sin the market. Blue fin Tuna can live up to 30 years and grow to 1200 pounds. Blue fin Tuna is used almost exclusively in sashimior sushi dishes.
The canned tuna sold in supermarkets or in foodservice outlets, delis, or in tuna sandwiches is either albacore or a mixture of skipjack andyellow fin tuna. “Light tuna” which consists mostly of skipjack and small amounts of yellow fin tuna is the less expensive product and represents the largest portion of canned tuna sales.
Canned tuna is a good source of essential nutrients, such asomega-3 fatty acids, high quality protein, selenium and Vitamin D. Most tuna species have approximately 1 to a maximum of 5 grams of fat per 100 gram (3.5ounce) portion and less than 50 milligrams of cholesterol and sodium. Tuna also provides an important dietary source of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids needed for good heart health, brain function and normal growth and development. Albacore and blue fin tuna have the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acidsfollowed by skipjack and yellow fin. The canning process creates a convenient,nutritious product with a long shelf-life that is a good source of protein andother nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids. The nutritional composition ofcanned tuna products is influenced by the liquid (oil or water) that it ispacked in and whether or not other ingredients such as salt are added.Nutritional labels provide a basis to compare these products.