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Tuna, albacore

Thunnus alalunga

Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - Pole & line
Capture area - South Atlantic (FAO 41,47)
Stock area - South Atlantic
Stock detail - All Areas
Certification -
Fish type - Oily fish

Sustainability rating Click for explaination of rating

This fish, caught by the methods and in the area listed above, is not the most sustainable choice of fish to eat. Click on the rating icon above to read more and on the alternatives tab below to find more sustainable fish to eat.


Sustainability overview

There is considerable uncertainty in the recent (2013) assessment of the albacore stock in the South Atlantic, yet results indicate that the stock is overfished and being marginally subject to overfishing. ICCAT have reduced the TAC in line with scientific advice, however this TAC will likely only place the stock above Bmsy by 2020. A lower TAC would see the stock back to healthy levels much faster. The current TAC has been slightly overshot in 2011 and 2012, yet adherence to the TAC has been generally good over the last decade. The bycatch of threatened, protected and endangered species in the longline fisheries, particularly of albatross, is of concern and improved monitoring is required. Due to the low levels of discard and bycatch, the surface fisheries (troll and pole & line) are the best choices.

There remain large data deficiencies in most tuna and billfish fisheries, particularly with regards to fine scale spatial and temporal data for both target and especially for vulnerable bycatch species. Such information is vital to establish the true impact on the marine ecosystem. For this reason, commercial buyers in particular should establish what measures the flag state and feet is taking to improve these deficiencies and specify the need for ongoing and demonstrable improvements. Large buyers should consider supporting such improvements.

Biology

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.

Stock information

Stock area
South Atlantic

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Stock information
Albacore stocks in the Atlantic are assessed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). The latest stock assessment of South Atlantic albacore was conducted in 2013 and included catch, effort and size data up to 2011. There was considerable uncertainty in the data available for assessments, so a wide range of scenarios were modelled. The provisional catch for 2014 is 13,681t, significantly down from the previous five year average of 21,972t and TAC of 24,000t. At the time of the last assessment, the scientific committee noted that both the stock and fishing mortality were close to that which would produce MSY, however, the stock was being marginally overfished (Fishing mortality, F2011, at 1.04Fmsy) and was in an overfished state (Biomass, B, at 0.92Bmsy). Considerable uncertainty in the assessment was noted.

Recent research from across the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Pacific suggests that fluctuations in environmental conditions may have dramatic impacts on the temporal and spatial distribution of albacore populations.

Management

Most tuna stocks range across and are accessed by numerous coastal states, making harmonised and effective management of these individual stocks very difficult. To try and achieve this, Intergovernmental Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) have been established; for this stock it is the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). There are five main tuna RFMOs worldwide and it is their responsibility to carry out data collection, scientific monitoring and management of these fisheries. 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. For this reason, it is important to choose tuna that has been caught by vessels that are well regulated by their flag state. Albacore catch data is poor or unknown for the following countries/fisheries: longliners from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Oman, and Philippines; fleets using gillnets on the high seas, in particular I.R. Iran, Pakistan and Sri Lanka: and longliners operating under flags of non-reporting countries. Prior to 2006 no catch data was provided by China or Taiwan.

There is no harvest control rule that has been developed for the stock, however interim targets of Bmsy and Fmsy are in place with limit reference points (Blim and Flim) of 0.4Bmsy and 1.4Fmsy are in place. Piracy in the southwest Indian Ocean has displaced considerable tuna fishing effort to traditional albacore fishing grounds in the southern and eastern Indian Ocean, which has presented challenges to limiting fishing effort on the albacore stock. Recent catches are beyond recommended levels and need to be reduced.

There is a one month closure for purse seiners and longliners over 24m and small vessels fishing on the High Seas or in an area of size 10??x20??. The closure has had little effect on the status of IO tuna stocks though.

5% regional observer coverage is required for all vessels over 24m and for vessels under 24m fishing outside of their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

To help address IUU, the IOTC maintains an active vessel register and an IUU Vessel List; and prohibits transhipments for large scale vessels at sea unless part of the Programme to Monitor Transhipments at Sea and monitored by an IOTC observer.

Capture information

The recent total annual South Atlantic albacore landings were largely attributed to four fisheries, namely the surface bait boat fleets of South Africa and Namibia, and the longline fleets of Brazil and Chinese Taipei. The surface fleets are entirely albacore directed and mainly catch juvenile and sub adult fish (70cm to 90cm FL). On average, the longline vessels catch larger albacore (60cm to 120cm FL) than the surface fleets. 70% of the catch is made by longlining and 26% by pole and line , troll & jig bait boats. Several mitigation measures are in place to reduce bycatch of sharks, turtles and seabirds in the longline fisheries yet monitoring is deficient. According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) 17 of the 22 albatross species are threatened with extinction, largely because of longlining. See http://www.rspb.org.uk/supporting/campaigns/albatross/ for more info.

Pole & line and troll fisheries are more labour intensive, but are far more selective. Some concern has been raised over the unknown impacts on bait fish populations used in the pole & line fishery.

Read more about capture methods


References
Froese, R. and Pauly, D. Editors, 2013. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. Available at www.fishbase.org [Accessed Nov 2013].

ICCAT, 2015. Report of the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS). Madrid, Spain, 28 Sept to 2 Oct 2015. Available at https://www.iccat.int/com2015/DocENG/PLE_104_ENG.pdf [Accessed Dec 2015].

ICCAT, 2014. Inter-sessional meeting of the sub-committee on ecosystems. Olhao, Portugal, 1 to 5 September 2014. Available at https://www.iccat.int/Documents/Meetings/Docs/2014_SCECO_Rep_ENG.pdf [Accessed Nov 2014].

ICCAT, 2015. Resolutions, recommendations and other decisions. Available at https://www.iccat.int/en/RecsRegs.asp [Accessed Dec 2015].

ICCAT, 2013. Report of the 2013 ICCAT North and South Atlantic albacore stock assessment meeting. Sukarrieta, Spain, 17 to 24 June 2013. Available at http://www.iccat.int/Documents/Meetings/Docs/2013_ALB_ASSESS_REP_ENG.pdf [Accessed Dec 2013].

ISSF, 2015. ISSF Tuna Stock Status Update, 2015: Status of the world fisheries for tuna. ISSF Technical Report 2015-03A. International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, Washington, D.C., USA. Available at http://iss-foundation.org/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2015/11/ISSF-2015-03A-Status-of-the-Stocks-Nov-2015.pdf [Accessed Dec 2015].

IUCN 2015. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.4. . [Accessed December 2015].

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