Top Pick Of The Week

August 1, 2006
Updated December 2011



Albacore Tuna
An albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga). See the different types of tuna below. Photo courtesy
WHAT IT IS: Single-serve seasoned canned tuna in six different flavors, wild Alaskan salmon in three flavors.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Gourmet flavors; the tuna is the skipjack species fished in pristine waters, and has very low levels of mercury.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Low-calorie (it uses cholesterol- free canola oil to blend the seasonings), controlled portions with ready-to-eat convenience and exciting tastes. Plus, easy portability for work, school, desk drawers and stashing anywhere you need snacks.
BUY IT AT: Whole Foods Markets and other fine food stores.

Page 4: Tuna Types


This is Page 4 of a four-page review. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.

Tuna Types

Among the world’s most valuable commercial fish species, tuna are fished in more than 70 countries. There are a number of species of tuna in the Scombridae family. Some are in large supply and have tasty meat, some have neither attribute.

Popular species of tuna are overfished, meaning that they are not reproducing enough to meet demand, and their stocks are below an acceptable level. Some, like bigeye and bluefin stocks, are threatened with extinction, putting further pressure on yellowfin stocks.

Five species comprise the world’s significant commercial crop: albacore, bigeye, bluefin, skipjack and yellowfin*. Skipjack is the largest source of canned tuna in the world and is in most of the cans labeled “light” tuna. All are in the scientific family Scombridae.

*There are a number of different fish called yellowtail, not to be confused with yellowfin tuna. Yellowtail is a member of the jack family (Carangidae). The Japanese yellowtail (Seriola quinqueradiata) is a small fish that, at 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) is called hamachi in Japan and at 5 kilograms (11 pounds) is called buri. Tuna is a member of the mackerel family (Scombridae). Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) is commonly 80 pounds and occasionally reaches 200 pounds.



Glossary Of Tuna Types


  • Ahi Tuna. See yellowfin tuna.

  • Albacore Tuna (Thunnus alalunga): High-fat and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the albacore has the lightest flesh (white with a hint of pink) and is the only tuna with meat that can be called “white” in the U.S. (it is called “white tuna” at sushi bars). Its prized white flesh and mild (some say dry) flavor make it the most expensive canned tuna, with comparisons to chicken. This earned it the sobriquet “chicken of the sea” and created a major brand of the same name, ultimately leading a confused Hollywood star to ask, as she was opening a can on her T.V. show, if it was tuna or chicken. Albacore tuna are commonly 80 pounds and can reach 200 pounds. See photo at top of page.

  • Bigeye Tuna (Thunnus obesus): Known in Hawaii as ahi, bigeye has a mild flavor and a desirable fat content. It is a popular fresh fish and is often used for canning. Bigeye is similar in appearance to yellowfin. It swims at the greatest depth of all tuna species, and thus has more fat to insulate it from the cold water. This makes it especially attractive for the Japanese sashimi market. It can weigh up to 460 pounds.

  • Blackfin Tuna (Thunnus atlanticus): The smallest species in the Thunnus genus, this fish grows to no more than 39 inches in length and 46 pounds. They have black backs and yellow sides of their body. Blackfin are only found in the western Atlantic coast, from Cape Cod to Brazil.

  • Northern Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus): Bluefin tuna is the most rare tuna, used only in sushi and sashimi. Young bluefin has a lighter flesh and is less strongly flavored; as it grows into adulthood, the flesh turns dark red and the flavor becomes more pronounced. Among the largest tunas, bluefin can weigh over 1,000 pounds.

  • Pacific Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus orientalis): The Pacific bluefin tuna spawn in the Western Pacific between Japan and the Philippines and migrate to the Eastern Pacific. They mature slowly to a length of up to 10 feet and a weight of up to 1,200 pounds, and can live up to 30 years. Fast swimmers, they can race at speeds of 30 mph and more, although this does not help them: they are hooked on long lines or illegally netted everywhere they swim and are seriously overfished.

  • Southern Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus maccoyii): The Southern Bluefin is the most overexploited tuna species; the stocks are heavily depleted because the Japanese are willing to pay extremely high prices for it. For this same reason it is rarely found elsewhere. The other bluefin species are similarly rare and under threat. It swims through all of the world’s oceans in the Southern Hemisphere, growing up to 8.2 feet in length and up to 882 pounds.

  • Skipjack Tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis): There are several other fish called tuna in the family Scombridae. The most important one that is not in the genus Thunnus is the Skipjack. Similar in flesh to the yellowfin, the skipjack gets its name because it seems to skip out of the water. Skipjack is the most commonly canned fish: its small size lends itself to canning. It can weigh up to 40 pounds, but is more typically 6 to 8 pounds. The variety is also known as arctic bonito, oceanic bonito, striped tuna, stripies, watermelon and, in Hawaii, aku. There is ongoing debate about its biological classification; previously it was assigned to the Thunnus genus, but is still legitimate tuna.

  • White Tuna. See albacore tuna.

  • Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares): Also called ahi in Hawaii, the yellowfin tuna is usually larger than the albacore, growing up to 300 pounds. It is a big fish that can swim at very high speeds, which may be why, in some areas, dolphins and large yellowfin swim together. Its flesh is pale pink (in the U.S. it must be called “light” meat), with a flavor slightly stronger than the albacore.

Tuna Facts & Trivia


What’s In The Can?

  • Canned tuna is precooked. It has a shelf life of up to five years.
  • White meat canned tuna is albacore, the only tuna that can be called white. Most light meat tuna is skipjack.
  • Albacore is packed almost exclusively in water, in solid form.
  • Light meat tuna is most commonly packed chunk-style in water, although there is a demand for oil-packed light meat tuna.
  • Solid tuna (also called “fancy”) is a solid portion of a loin, cut to fit the can and packed in one layer. The FDA also allows a piece of a segment to be added to fill the container.
  • Chunk tuna is a mixture of cut pieces of varying sizes.

Tuna Trivia

  • Tuna is a member of the mackerel family. It is probably the most popular fish used for canning.
  • Canned and pouched tuna are some of the most widely consumed fish products. Americans eat about one billion pounds of canned and pouched tuna annually.
  • Japan and the United States are the largest consumers of tuna, using about 36 percent and 31 percent, respectively, of the world’s catch.
  • Although tuna is found in all major bodies of water (except the Arctic Ocean), the majority of the supply comes from the Pacific Ocean, which accounts for 66% of the commercial catch. The rest comes from the Indian Ocean (20.7%), the Atlantic Ocean (12.5%) and the Mediterranean and Black Seas (0.8%).

For more information, visit, the website of the U.S. Tuna Foundation, and

As soon as we tasted G’Day Gourmet tunas, we knew we had to order them by the case—with some salmon for a change of pace. They are the new healthy convenience food to eat at the office. At first, we felt constrained by the 3.5-ounce portion control. Then we remembered: when one door closes, another opens. We just opened another can of a different flavor!

—Karen Hochman
Updated December 2011

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone who loves tuna or canned salmon, needs to eat better at work, or in general needs portable healthy food with a shelf life.



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