Word Nerd: Albacore

Clark Von Essen holds an albacore caught in July 2016 aboard Ilwaco-based tuna charter Shake N Bake.

Albacore [æl•bə•koʊr]


1. Also known as the longfin tuna because of its unusually long pectoral fins, the Thunnus alalunga of the order Perciformes is a commercially valuable and ubiquitous species.

At home in warm or tepid seas, these moderately sized tunny travel thousands of miles a year in huge, migratory schools and often find their way into a can before a sandwich. Naturally, the albacore tuna lives an average of twelve years, maturing in five.

Albacore troll the Oregon and Washington coast in the summer months, munching on anchovies and sardines. The flesh of fish is the lightest colored known of any of the tuna species. Albacore are also often cut into sashimi or steaks and are a good source of Omega-3 fatty oils


Enters the Portuguese around the mid-16th century as “albacora.” Believed by numerous sources to have arrived at the Portuguese from the Arabic al-bakūrah, which means “young camel.”

It is unclear how a word for a lumpy land mammal came to describe a midsize tunny, but what is clear is that al-bakūrah has a secondary, feminine definition and also meant “virgin” or “maiden” in Arabic at the time. Chalk this up to another mystery of the deep.

“Oregon Albacore are fairly small (10-18lbs) and are usually younger than 2 years old. Some smaller boats will pull right up to our front door and unload their catch. Many customers will buy them right off the scales - can’t get any fresher than that!”

—​Northwest Wild Products website, http://northwestwildproducts.com/seafood/albacore_tuna

“North Pacific albacore begin an expansive annual migration in the spring and early summer in waters off Japan, continuing throughout the late summer into inshore waters off the U.S. Pacific Coast, ending late in the year (late fall and winter) in the western Pacific Ocean, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center.”

— Luke Whittaker, “Albacore in abundance for Ilwaco anglers,” ​The Daily Astorian, July 28, 2016

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