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Hyundai Country Calendar


Episode 26: Tuna Quest

On the next episode, screening August 15 at 7 pm on TV ONE:

Bay of Islands long-line fisherman Dale Coker believes New Zealanders don't appreciate the value of the marine riches around our shores - and he's set out to make some changes.

Dale, who features on this week's Country Calendar, has spent over 30 years catching tuna and says he's tired of seeing it all sent to overseas markets like Japan, when we could be enjoying it ourselves.

He's started bottling and selling albacore tuna that he's caught on his own boat, Pegasus II.

The new enterprise was a challenge to get started - it involves cooking the tuna inside glass jars and initially scientists told Dale it couldn't be done.

He's now overcome all the technical issues and has Food Safety Authority approval for the process, which he carries out at his fish shop at Haruru Falls, near Paihia.

He says the best thing about the process is that it preserves the tuna's very high levels of Omega 3, which many now see as a health wonder-food.

There's a growing view among many scientists that the fatty acids found in some fish - particularly tuna and salmon - are valuable 'brain food'.  Dale says his bottling process ensures the Omega 3 remains intact till the tuna is eaten.

Tuna are migratory and unlike most fish, they're warm-blooded.  They build up supplies of Omega 3 when they move south to feed in the colder waters near New Zealand - and Dale says that means we're sitting on a very valuable resource which hasn't been fully recognised or exploited.

He says New Zealanders still see snapper as the ultimate fish to eat and they need to learn there's a wealth of other seafood options. "There's nothing wrong with snapper - it's great eating and very good for you - but people have got to realise that some other types of fish are even better," he says.

But he believes there'll be a future for tuna only if it's harvested in a sustainable and ecologically sound way.  That's why he's participated in trials of new techniques to reduce or eliminate the chances of long-liners catching seabirds such as albatrosses.

The methods which the Country Calendar crew filmed aboard Pegasus II include a shooter mechanism makes the line go straight down behind the boat, rather than trail behind, safeweights that ensure the hooks sink quickly, and dying the squid bait blue so the birds won't recognise it and dive after it.

Other sites to view

- More about Dale's fish at Blue Ocean Fish.