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Tuna, albacore

Thunnus alalunga

Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - Longline; Gill net; Purse Seine
Capture area - Mediterranean and Black Sea (FAO 37)
Stock area - Mediterranean
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 the least sustainable fish to eat and should be avoided. Click on the rating icon above to read more and on the alternatives tab below to find sustainable fish to eat.


Sustainability overview

Relatively stable catches over the last decade suggest the stock is not being subject to overfishing, however there was insufficient data to determine MSY reference points or status of the biomass. There are no management measures for the stock and management and monitoring from the main participating country, Italy, appears to be deficient. MCS recommends avoiding products from red rated tuna fisheries.

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
Mediterranean

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Stock information
Albacore is assessed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). In 2014 provisional reported landings were 2,373tand lower than the previous five year average of 2,863t. The scientific committee however, note that historical and current catch monitoring is deficient for this fishery. The status of albacore stocks in the Mediterranean is based on the 2011 assessment using available data up to 2009 and 2010, respectively. Due to relatively stable exploitation rates over the last decade, this assessment suggested that overfishing was unlikely to be occurring, although considerable uncertainty was noted. The committee were unable to provide the status of biomass due to the lack of data available for the assessment. As a result, future stock status in response to management actions could not be simulated. The outlook for this stock is therefore unknown.

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

Approximately 51% of the catch is taken in pelagic longline fisheries and about 48% in surface fisheries such as gill net, purse seine, troll and pole and line fisheries. Italy is the main producer of Mediterranean albacore, with 70% of the catch during the last 10 years. Mediterranean longline and gill net fisheries are associated with bycatch of sharks, birds and turtles. And whilst there are ICCAT recommendations to adopt bycatch mitigation measures, monitoring in these fisheries is deficient.

There are a range of measures that are available and required to be employed to reduce bycatch and mortality of these species including: circle and/or barbless hooks to prevent turtle and shark capture, and weighted branch lines, bird scaring lines, and night setting to reduce the capture of birds. There is also a prohibition to retain at risk shark species including bigeye thresher, oceanic whitetip, hammerhead, silky and porbeagle. Several species of albatross are threatened with extinction, and whilst there have been many advances in reducing interactions with longline fisheries, it is not clear how effective these have been. Monitoring and data reporting of interactions with vulnerable species in all tuna fisheries is deficient, and the effectiveness of such measures has not been evaluated. Current effort is likely to further reduce populations of vulnerable animals and so compliance with ICCAT measures is essential.

Pole and line represents the most selective method of fishing for this stock, yet the proportion attributed to this method is unknown and likely very small.

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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