What is Bonito del Norte Tuna?
Bonito or White Tuna comes from the Thunnus Alalunga or Albacore family and is the most oceanic species in the tuna family. They are all warm blooded, and flourish in the oceans of tropical, subtropical, and temperate climates. They can be found between the parallels 50º N and 40º S, of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
The Atlantic White Tuna carries out two migrations in its lifetime that are easily differentiated by its stage of maturity. The young fish spend the winter in the waters near the Azores. At the end of the spring they migrate in search of food, reaching as far as the waters of the Bay of Biscay, off the coast of Spain, where they remain until the Autumn when they return towards their places of origin.
The Northern White Tuna caught in these waters are known as Bonito del Norte and are valued for their superior quality. They have a life expectancy of 7 to 8 years and can grow up to one meter in length and weigh over 10 kilos.
How is bonito different than other types of tuna?
Of all the various tunas, Northern Bonito, smaller than its blue fin and yellow fin cousins, is considered of the highest quality, due to its extremely white meat, exquisite taste, and incomparable texture. Being a migratory fish that covers almost unimaginable distances annually in search of food, comfortable temperatures and familiar spawning grounds, it uses a great deal of energy which is built up seasonally in the fish. High energy equates to a high oil content. And when the fish are at their plumpest and oiliest is when the fishermen catch them, for they are tastiest at that point.
The Bonito is a protein-rich food with a high nutritional value, and it contains essential amino acids (lysine, methionine, tryosine, etc.). Its oils contain a large amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which help to lower the level of cholesterol and triglycerides. It provides liposoluble vitamins (A,D,E, and K), and those of the B group, plus iron, calcium, and sodium.
How is Bonito caught and processed?
During the summer months, when warm weather moves in to the eastern part of the Bay of Biscay, the Bonito begin to appear in these waters in tightly packed shoals. It is here, along the so-called “Bonito Coast” that the year’s most fruitful campaigns takes place. The fish are caught using rods and live bait, which is the most selective and ecological method, and the one that brings in the highest quality fish. This method is known as the traditional way, which became well established by the beginning of the 20th century.
Once the fish is caught it must be cleaned, cooked and packed within 24 hours to retain freshness. Traditionally in Spain, the Bonito is packed in olive oil, with no chemicals, preservatives, coloring, or other additives. It is best to allow the tuna to “age” in the tin to allow the tuna to fully absorb the olive oil. Some are aged for upwards of five years. Spanish canneries are well known for their high quality fish products. Not surprising for a country with the highest per capita consumption of preserved fish in the world.