Good Fish Guide
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 - None
Fish type - Oily fish
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.
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.
Albacore is assessed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). In 2015, the reported landings were 2,718 t, similar to those in the last decade. The scientific committee however, note that historical and current catch monitoring is deficient for this fishery, and there is poor knowledge about Mediterranean albacore biology and ecology. The status of albacore stocks in the Mediterranean is based on the 2011 assessment using available data up to 2010. 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.
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. For this reason, it is important to choose tuna that has been caught by vessels that are well regulated by their flag state. Most of the albacore in the Mediterranean (70%) is caught by Italy whose management and implementation of ICCAT measures appears insufficient.
There are no conservation and management measures for the Mediterranean albacore stock. The scientific committee has recommended that ICCAT adopt measures designed to limit increases in catch and fishing effort directed at Mediterranean albacore, yet none have been adopted.
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 89% of the catch is taken in pelagic longline fisheries and about 11% in surface fisheries such as gill net, purse seine, troll and pole and line fisheries. Italy is the main producer of Mediterranean albacore, with 62% 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 very 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 capture; chemical, magnetic and rare earth metal shark deterrents; and bird scaring lines for vessels south of 20 degrees S. South of 25 degrees S, longline vessels must use at least two of the following: night setting, bird-scaring lines or line weighting. In the Mediterranean, seabird mitigation measures are voluntary. 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. There is also a prohibition to retain at risk shark species including: bigeye thresher, oceanic whitetip, hammerhead, silky and porbeagle sharks. This has been in place for over four years, yet ICCAT has not received records of compliance from the majority of member states. Porbeagle is significantly overfished, and whilst there is a zero EU TAC for porbeagle, it is still caught incidentally and discarded, and also landed by other fleets. In 2016 additional measures for blue shark were introduced, mainly focussed on improved data recording, with potential to introduce Harvest Control Rules. Monitoring of bycatch is deficient in these fisheries and the scientific committee strongly recommends improvements in data collection.
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.
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.
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].
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].
Sign up to get all the latest marine related news from MCS
The UK charity for the protection of our seas, shores and wildlife.