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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 - None
Fish type - Oily fish

Sustainability rating Click for explaination of rating

This fish, caught by the methods and in the area listed above, is a good sustainable fish to eat. Click on the rating icon above to read more and on the alternatives tab below to find similar fish to eat.


Sustainability overview

The latest stock assessment undertaken in 2016 indicated that the stock was no longer overfished nor subject to overfishing and catches have been under the advised total allowable catch (TAC). The bycatch of threatened, protected and endangered species in the longline fisheries, particularly of albatross and sharks, 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 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 status of the North and South Atlantic albacore stocks is based on the most recent analyses from May 2016 using available data up to 2014. As in the previous assessment, considerable uncertainty in the data available for assessments meant a wide range of scenarios were modelled. However, stock status seems to have improved since the last assessment. The catch for 2015 is 15,144t, lower than the five year average of 19,455t and TAC of 24,000t. Considering all scenarios, there is a 66% probability that the stock is not in an overfished state (Biomass, B, at 1.10Bmsy) and not undergoing overfishing (Fishing mortality, F2014, at 0.54Fmsy). As previously, considerable uncertainty in the assessment was noted. Projections suggest that catches in line with the current TAC will result in a greater than 60% probability of the stock remaining in the current state (not overfished and not undergoing overfishing).

Management

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.

In 2011, following scientific advice, the albacore TAC here was lowered to 24,000 tonnes and remains in place until 2020 The TAC was slightly overshot in both 2011 and 2012, but since implementation of TACs in 2001, adherence has been relatively good. Projections suggest that catches in line with the current TAC will result in a greater than 60% probability of the stock remaining in the current state (not overfished and not undergoing overfishing). Any overshooting of the TAC in subsequent years will result in this overshot amount being deducted from the TAC in the following year.

In 2016 countries were mandated to immediately improve their catch reporting systems to ensure the reporting of accurate and validated southern Atlantic albacore catch and effort data to ICCAT.

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. There will be a list of vessels 20 meters plus that are allowed to fish SA Albacore.

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. 69% of the catch is made by longlining and 28% 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) 15 of the 22 albatross species are threatened with extinction, largely because of longlining. See http://www.rspb.org.uk/join-and-donate/donate/appeals/albatross/index.aspx 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.

In 2016, work was begun to improve ICCAT's understanding of the trophic ecology of pelagic ecosystems that are important and unique for species managed in this area. ICCAT also introduced a number of recommendations, to improve compliance and reporting. 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.

Read more about capture methods


References
Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2016. FishBase. Available at www.fishbase.org [Accessed Dec 2016].

ICCAT, 2016. Resolutions, recommendations and other decisions. Available at https://www.iccat.int/en/RecsRegs.asp [Accessed Dec 2016].

ICCAT, 2016. Report of the standing committee on research and statistics. Madrid, Spain 3 to 7, October 2016. Available at https://www.iccat.int/Documents/Meetings/Docs/2016_SCRS_ENG.pdf [Accessed Nov 2016].

ISSF, 2016. ISSF Tuna stock status update, 2016: Status of the world fisheries for tuna. ISSF Technical Report 2016-05B. International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, Washington, D.C., USA. Available at http://iss-foundation.org/knowledge-tools/technical-and-meeting-reports/download-info/issf-2016-05b-status-of-the-world-fisheries-for-tuna-nov-2016/ [Accessed Nov 2016].

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].

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