A Slow Fishing Season Doesn’t Dampen Demand for U.S. Albacore
Portland, OR (6, October, 2011) – Demand for sustainable, Northwest albacore was greater than ever this summer, despite a slow start to the season caused by unfavorable 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.
Special marketing activities included cooking demonstrations, albacore BBQs, and prominent point-of-sale signage and product information. The centerpiece 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.
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 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."
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 program.
“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% of American albacore is exported to Europe and Japan for the sushi market. Conversely, 86% of seafood consumed in the US is imported.
“When retailers support sustainable, local seafood not only are they making an environmentally-sound decision, they’re keeping jobs and dollars in our coastal communities,” says Heikkila.
About Wild Pacific Albacore
Caught off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington, Wild Pacific Albacore tuna is certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council and is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Super Green List. High in omega-3s with a firm texture and mild flavor, Wild Pacific Albacore is commonly sold in loins, steaks and smaller medallions during the season (July-October), and fresh-frozen or canned year-round.
For more information visit www.PacificAlbacore.com or Wild Pacific Albacore on Facebook.
About Western Fishboat Owners Association
The Western Fishboat Owners Association (WFOA) is a non-profit association representing about 400 family-owned albacore fishing vessels and supporting coastal businesses. WFOA is involved in fisheries management issues at the state, federal, and international level. Chief among the Association’s concerns is maintaining a sustainable fishery for future generations. Members generally fish Northern Pacific waters and are based in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, New Zealand and British Columbia. www.wfoa-tuna.org
About Oregon Albacore Commission
The Oregon Albacore Commission (OAC) was formed in1999 and is a part of the Oregon Department of Agriculture's (ODA) Commodity Commission Program and is funded by Oregon Fishermen and supporting businesses. The Commission’s primary activities include marketing & promotion, information dissemination, consumer education and research. The OAC exhibits at major seafood and food industry trade shows under the Seafood OREGON umbrella with the state's three other seafood commodity commissions and, in general, works to enhance the use and consumption of sustainable, troll-caught albacore. For more information visit www.oregonalbacore.org.