Fishing boat returns with tons of tuna, but there's no restaurant market — so they're selling to the public

Sandi Doughton, The Seattle Times on

Published in Business News

They intend to can Saturday's haul, which Anna estimated would be enough for about 50 jars, each seasoned with olive oil, salt and a clove or two of garlic.

"It's just like canning anything else," she said. "You just have to be sure your jars are sterile."

Wearing a blue face mask and jeans, Joe Malley greeted customers on the dock and offered impromptu cooking tips. He advises cutting the loins into steaks an inch and a quarter thick while still partly frozen, then seasoning and searing them on the grill, leaving the middle raw.

"It's a lot easier to overcook than it is to undercook," he cautioned.

Malley and his three-man crew fish with hooked lines up to 100 feet long, trolling lures near the surface where young albacore feed. Each fish is hauled in separately by hand, immediately bled and flash-frozen, which is the key to high quality, he explained.

The handling makes a difference, according to James Beard award-winning chef Maria Hines, of Tilth. "The flesh is always meaty and not beaten up," she wrote in a text. "It always tastes clean, not fishy."

On the boat's most recent trip, most of the fishing was done a thousand miles east of New Zealand. The crew weathered three typhoons, and only came ashore twice after setting off from American Samoa. In early February, they offloaded 70 tons of fish in New Zealand and barely heard a whisper about a frightening new virus. But by early April, when they arrived at Tahiti, the pandemic was raging. They were only allowed to linger in the harbor half a day and couldn't leave the boat. So they fueled up and headed for Seattle -- a journey that took 26 days.


Malley is hoping the moribund restaurant market will revive as eateries slowly begin to reopen. In the meantime, some of the tuna can be canned and the rest kept in cold storage. At the minus 10 degrees common in commercial facilities, the fish will stay good for up to two years – though that might not be economically viable.

"Every month you get another bill for the cold storage."

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