Good Fish Guide
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 very 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 estimated catch for 2014 was 83,462t which is about 10,000t down on the 2013 level yet approximately equal to the average catch between 2009 and 2013 of 81,000t. 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, increases to 65%.
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.
Approximately 25% of the albacore in the North Pacific is caught in surface troll fisheries primarily from USA and Canada. Trolling generally targets smaller albacore which tend to stay closer to the surface. It is a labour intensive yet very selective method of fishing with virtually no impact on non-target species.
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 Pauly, D. Editors, 2015. FishBase. Available at www.fishbase.org [Accessed Nov 2015].
IATTC, 2015. Fisheries status report 2014. La Jolla, California, 2015. Available at http://www.iattc.org/PDFFiles2/FisheryStatusReports/FisheryStatusReport13.pdf [Accessed Dec 2015].
IATTC, 2015. Active IATTC and AIDCP Resolutions and Recommendations. Available at http://www.iattc.org/ResolutionsActiveENG.htm [Accessed Dec 2015].
ISC, 2015. Report of the fifteenth meeting of the international scientific committee for tuna and tuna-like species in the North Pacific Ocean. Available at http://isc.fra.go.jp/reports/isc/isc15_reports.html [Accessed Jan 2016]. ISC, 2014. Stock assessment of albacore tuna in the North Atlantic Ocean. Report of the albacore working group. 16 to 21 July, 2014. Taipei, Taiwan. Available at http://isc.ac.affrc.go.jp/pdf/ISC14pdf/Annex%2011-%20NPALB%20Stock%20Assessment%20Report_revsied%2029Aug14.pdf [Accessed Jan 2015].
ISSF, 2015. Status of the world fisheries for tuna: management of tuna stocks and fisheries. Nov 2015 Update. Available at http://iss-foundation.org/knowledge-tools/reports/technical-reports/download-info/issf-technical-report-2015-03-a-status-of-the-world-fisheries-for-tuna-november-2015/ [Accessed Dec 2015].
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