Good Fish Guide
Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - Pole and line
Capture area - North West and Central Pacific (FAO 61,71,77)
Stock area - North Pacific
Stock detail - All Areas
Fish type - Oily fish
The North Pacific albacore stock was last assessed in 2014. Whilst biomass reference points (relating to MSY) have not been established for the fishery, the assessment indicated that the biomass is most likely healthy, and is achieving its interim management objective to not allow stocks to fall below the average of the 10 worst historical levels. Similarly, the assessment indicated that overfishing was not occurring. Approximately 60% of the total catch is taken in surface pole and line or troll fisheries. Whilst generally targeting smaller albacore, both these methods are very selective and have very little impact on non-target species, although some monitoring and basic management of bait fish used in pole and line fisheries is needed. Pelagic longlining is associated with the bycatch of vulnerable species, such as sharks, turtles and seabirds in particular. Mitigation measures are in place yet widespread monitoring is deficient and reporting of interactions with vulnerable species is poor. There are a number of albacore fisheries in the North Pacific that are certified as sustainable, well managed fisheries by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) which represent the best choice.
Commercial buyers sourcing from the longline fisheries should establish what measures the flag state is taking to improve deficiencies in monitoring and reporting - particularly of interactions with vulnerable species - and specify the need for ongoing and demonstrable improvements. Large buyers should consider supporting such improvements.
Tuna belong to the family Scombridae. They are large, oceanic fish and are seasonally migratory, some making trans-oceanic journeys. Albacore are found throughout the world's temperate, sub-tropical and tropical oceans, although they are less common in the tropics. They are found from the surface to a depth of 600m where they often form mixed schools with skipjack, yellowfin and bluefin tuna. They grow more slowly than skipjack and yellowfin tuna, reaching a maximum size of 140cm, 60kg in weight and maximum age of 15 years. Albacore mature when about 90cm length and 4-5 years old. Spawning normally occurs between January and July.
The North Pacific albacore fishery was last assessed by the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean (ISC) in 2014. The total annual catches of North Pacific albacore peaked in 1976 at about 125,000 t, declined to about 38,000 t in 1991, and then increased to about 122,000 t in 1999. The preliminary catch for 2015 is 69,842t which is below the 2010-2014 average of 73,719t. This remains under the estimated Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) of 105,571t. MSY biological reference points have not been established for this fishery due to a lack of long-term data available, however, an interim management objective to maintain the spawning stock biomass (SSB) above the average of the ten historically lowest estimated points (ATHL) with a probability greater than 50% is in place (This objective is estimated to be greater than Bmsy).
Results of the 2014 assessment indicated that the stock was not being subject to overfishing, with current fishing mortality (F2010 to 2012) at approximately 0.51Fmsy. Similarly, the biomass is estimated to be well above its management objective, indicating the stock is most likely in a healthy state and not overfished. It is noted however, that if a low recruitment scenario is assumed, the probability of the current fishing mortality reducing the biomass below its objective is 65%.
Most tuna stocks range across and are accessed by numerous coastal states, making harmonised and effective management of these individual stocks very difficult. As a result, intergovernmental Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) have been established. There are five main tuna RFMOs worldwide and it is their responsibility to carry out data collection, scientific monitoring and management of these fisheries. Albacore stocks in the Atlantic are assessed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Whilst the RFMOs are responsible for the development of management and conservation measures, the degree to which they are implemented, monitored and enforced still varies significantly between coastal states. There remain large data deficiencies in most tuna fisheries, particularly with regards to fine scale spatial and temporal data for both target and especially vulnerable bycatch species. For this reason, it is important to choose tuna that has been caught by vessels that are well regulated by their flag state. Commercial buyers in particular should establish what measures their source country and fleet are taking to improve these deficiencies.
A TAC of 28,000t has been in place since 2012 and will continue until 2018, after which it may be raised to 30,000t for 2019 and 2020 (depending on scientific advice). The scientific committee estimated that under catch levels similar to those observed during the last five years (approximately 24,000 t) or the current TAC, spawning stock biomass would continue to increase and these levels are likely sustainable. In 2016 the albacore rebuilding program was replaced by a Multi?annual Management and Conservation Programme with the objective of maintaining the stock in a healthy state (not overfished / or subject to overfishing), while maximizing long?term yield from the fishery. Should spawning stock biomass (SSB) fall too low, it must be rebuilt within as short time as possible, while maximizing average catch and minimizing inter?annual fluctuations in TAC levels. Measures include (in addition to the TACs): A limit on the number vessels from each country fishing for this stock to the average number during the period 1993?1995 (countries whose average catches are less than 200 t are exempt).
A list of vessels 20 meters plus that are allowed to fish NA Albacore
In 2017 ICCAT will refine testing of reference points to enable them to set up Harvest Control Rules for the stock.
ICCAT has noted that the current mandatory level of observer coverage of 5% has not been implemented by many of the fleets and in 2016, updated their recommendation for a minimum of 5% observer coverage of fishing effort in each of the pelagic longline, purse seine, bait boat, traps, gillnet and trawl fisheries.
To reduce IUU, ICCAT have developed an IUU vessel register and a register of vessels authorised to undertake transhipments at sea. Additionally, transhipments at sea can only take place if an ICCAT Observer is on-board the receiving vessel.
Approximately 42% of the albacore in the North Pacific is caught in surface pole and line fisheries, primarily from Japan. Pole and line fisheries generally target smaller albacore which tend to stay closer to the surface. This is a labour intensive yet very selective method of fishing with very little impact on non-target species, yet considerable amounts of bait fish are used in these fisheries to attract the albacore. Whilst bait fish are usually small, resilient species, it is important that these stocks are monitored.
Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below . Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.
Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2016. FishBase. Available at www.fishbase.org [Accessed Dec 2016].
IATTC, 2016. Active IATTC and AIDCP resolutions and recommendations. Available at http://www.iattc.org/ResolutionsActiveENG.htm [Accessed Dec 2016].
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IATTC, 2016. Recommendations by the staff for conservation measures in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, IATTC-90-04d (REV). Available at http://www.iattc.org/Meetings/Meetings2016/June/pdf-files/IATTC-90-04d-Conservation-recommendations-2016REV.pdf [Accessed Dec 2016].
ISC, 2016. Report of the sixteenth meeting of the international scientific committee for tuna and tuna-like species in the North Pacific Ocean: plenary session. Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan, 13-18 July 2016. Available at http://isc.fra.go.jp/reports/isc/isc16_reports.html [Accessed Dec 2016].
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ISSF, 2016. Status of the world fisheries for tuna: Management of tuna stocks and fisheries, 2016. ISSF Technical Report 2016-14.International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, Washington, D.C., USA. Available at http://iss-foundation.org/downloads/13305/ [Accessed Nov 2016].
WCPFC, 2016. Conservation and management measures. Available at https://www.wcpfc.int/conservation-and-management-measures [Accessed Dec 2016].
WCPFC, 2014. Western and Central Pacific fisheries commission scientific committee: summary report. Tenth regular session. Majuro, Republic of the Marshall Islands, 6-14 August 2014. Available at https://www.wcpfc.int/meetings/10th-regular-session-scientific-committee [Accessed Dec 2016].
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