San Diego's Catalina Offshore Products Releases Packed Canned Tuna | Seafood Distributor Revives San Diego's Historic Tuna Industry

April 1, 2017

San Diego has a rich history in tuna fishing and canning. From the early 1930s up until the late seventies,  America's Finest City was known as the “Tuna Capital of the World,” and as San Diego's most popular wholesale fish distributor and market for four decades, Catalina Offshore Products aims to resurrect our city's tuna industry with the launch of its own brand of sustainable, locally harvested, premium canned tuna.

Catalina Offshore Products, one of the largest buyers of local seafood in San Diego, has started selling Catalina’s Choice Solid Pack Tuna in Olive Oil and Catalina’s Choice Smoked Solid Pack Tuna in Olive Oil, using U.S. hook-and-line wild-caught Eastern Pacific bigeye and yellowfin tuna, both also referred to as "ahi". Catalina Offshore is currently considering other flavor profiles for additional seafood canning and is working on a food service size.

Family-owned and operated by Dave Rudie since 1977, Catalina Offshore Products began exclusively as a sea urchin wholesaler. Over the last forty years, the company has built a strong reputation through providing customers with high quality and sushi grade seafood sourced mainly off the West Coast. While fresh, local, and sustainably caught tuna has always been a big seller, canning any unsold product enables Catalina Offshore Products to ensure the precious resource is even more sustainably managed. Additionally, it celebrates San Diego’s beloved tuna history.

When it was known as the "Tuna Capital of the World" during most of the 1900s, San Diego was home to the big names in canned tuna, including Van Camp, Starkist, and Bumble Bee, as well as several smaller processors. At its peak the tuna industry was San Diego’s biggest revenue generator behind the Navy and aircraft industry. The 1970s brought about changes that ultimately crushed the canneries and fishermen. The last of the canneries closed in 1984, losing 12,000 jobs with it.

Today consumers and chefs demand for responsibly harvested U.S. seafood is turning the tide back in San Diego’s favor. Five years ago, there were no commercial U.S. tuna boats offloading locally. Any tuna Catalina Offshore brought in came from importers based in Los Angeles. Following a business expansion four years ago, Rudie’s sales volumes led two tuna boats to start offloading in San Diego. Within the last two years that number has increased to six.

Workers from the Cohn-Hopkins cannery on
Crosby Street in downtown San Diego in 1933
"We are resurrecting San Diego’s tuna industry one fish at a time," said Catalina Offshore's famed fishmonger Tommy Gomes, who inspired the Catalina’s Choice brand and whose likeness is printed on each can.

A native San Diegan whose Portuguese family settled in San Diego in 1892, Gomes comes from a long line of professional tuna fishermen and grew up working the city’s historic fleets. He started at Catalina Offshore Products as a fish cutter nearly 15 years ago and has since become the company’s public face, a sustainable seafood advocate, and a fixture in the local food community.

From catch to can, Catalina’s Choice canned tuna is responsibly harvested by U.S. flagged vessels and processed and packed in the U.S. It is distributed through Catalina Offshore Products and available to wholesalers, restaurants, retail customers and institutions such as schools and hospitals.

Most recently San Diego’s San Ysidro School District proposed putting Catalina’s Choice on school lunch menus. The canned tuna aligns with the district’s initiative to provide more locally sourced ingredients to its students, as well as its participation in California Thursdays - a collaboration between the Center for Ecoliteracy and participating school districts to serve healthy, freshly prepared school meals featuring California-grown foods.

Catalina Offshore Products is located at 5202 Lovelock Street in San Diego's Linda Vista neighborhood. For more information, call 619.297.9797 or visit