San Diego’s long love affair with tuna fishing still lingers, as evidenced by the resurgence of the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market downtown, inspired by San Diego’s contemporary fishing fleet and storied fishing history.
Reverberations of the canning industry—which at its height brought more than $500 million (in today’s dollars) into the local economy, thanks to brands like Bumblebee Foods, Chicken of the Sea, Premier Packing, and Van Camp Seafood—echo here to this day, as Bumblebee and Chicken of the Sea maintain their business headquarters in San Diego.
The city’s most high-profile sustainable seafood market, Catalina Offshore Products, recently branded their own canned tuna, Catalina’s Choice Solid-Packed Tuna ($5, available at Catalina Offshore Products), featuring yellowfin and bigeye tuna caught by local fishermen, filleted at Catalina, and hand-canned in Oregon (where a small canning industry, primarily devoted to salmon, has remained).
But American Tuna is perhaps San Diego’s biggest tuna success story these days, exemplifying best practices and underscoring how traditional fishing and artisanal canning can work together to create an environmentally sustainable, financially viable business, even in the face of foreign competition.
Founded by six San Diego fishing families, American Tuna purchases and processes only MSC-certified sustainable pole- and line-caught albacore fished by vessels that belong to the American Albacore Fishing Association (AAFA).
The brand’s labeling—explained in detail on the company’s user-friendly website—makes each can of tuna traceable to the boat and captain that caught the fish.