Tuna, albacore

Thunnus alalunga

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Troll
Capture area — Pacific, South (FAO 81,87) and Central (FAO 71,77)
Stock area — South Pacific
Stock detail — All Areas
Picture of Tuna, albacore

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

Updated: December 2019 

There are two stocks of albacore in the Pacific Ocean, one in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern hemisphere. Albacore in the South Pacific is assessed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and jointly managed by the Western and Central Pacific Fishery Commission (WCPFC) and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC). The latest stock assessment was carried out in 2018, using data up to 2016. Although estimates are wide ranging, all models show that the stock is not overfished or subject to overfishing. Despite this, the model did also indicate that there has been a long-term decline in the spawning biomass compared to unfished levels. Recent assessments have not considered the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO) component, which therefore remains effectively un-assessed. EPO catches of southern albacore have recently increased to 30% of the total. The IATTC staff plans to undertake an assessment of south Pacific albacore in collaboration with the SPC during 2021-2022, pending funding.

Total catch of South Pacific albacore in 2018 was 80,820t, a 2% decrease from the 2013-2017 average. The estimate of Maximum Sustainable Yield is 98,100 tonnes, but this is highly uncertain and projections have demonstrated that parts of the stock would decline sharply if catch and effort were increased to MSY levels. In 2015, WCPFC limited the number of fishing vessels actively fishing for South Pacific albacore to 2005 levels or 2000-2004 average levels. An interim Target Reference Point was adopted in 2018 - to keep spawning biomass at 56% of unfished levels. This is just above the most recent stock status (52%) and therefore stock recovery is required. If recent catches continue, the stock will decline, and therefore all recommended management scenarios in 2019 required catch (and effort) reductions from the 2014-16 average (60,000t).

There is no specific management for this stock in the EPO.

Trolling only accounts for about 4% of the total albacore catch in the South Pacific. 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.

There are a number of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified troll fisheries in the South Pacific which represent the best choice.

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

Criterion score: 0 info

Stock Area

South Pacific

Stock information

There are two stocks of albacore in the Pacific Ocean, one in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern hemisphere. Albacore in the South Pacific is assessed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and jointly managed by the Western and Central Pacific Fishery Commission (WCPFC) and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC). The latest stock assessment was carried out in 2018, using data up to 2016. Some improvements were made to the model, although further research and development is needed. Although estimates are wide ranging, all models show that the stock is not overfished, with spawning biomass above the limit reference point of 20% of unfished levels with 100% probability: the average estimate across all the model runs was 52% (estimates ranged from 37%-63%). Recent average fishing mortality is estimated to be well below FMSY (Frecent=FMSY = 0.2, with a range of 0.08 to 0.41) with a 0% probability that overfishing was occurring. Despite this, the model did also indicate that there has been a long-term decline in stock depletion (i.e. current stock size compared to unfished levels).

Fishing mortality on adults steadily increased up to 2010 (when catches peaked at 91,984 t), and have steadily declined since, following a decline in longlining. Juvenile fishing mortality increased until around 1990, and has remained stable at a low level since that time. Total catch of South Pacific albacore in 2018 was 80,820t, a 2% decrease from the 2013-2017 average. About 30% was taken in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO). The estimate of Maximum Sustainable Yield is 98,100 tonnes. Projections indicate that if 2018 catch level is continued, the stock is expected to increase in the short term, following recent good recruitments, then decrease to 39% by 2035. There is a 23% chance of the stock biomass breaching limit reference points by 2035. As with previous scientific advice, it is recommended that longline fishing mortality and longline catch (responsible for 97% of total catch) be reduced to avoid decline in the vulnerable biomass so that economically viable catch rates can be maintained, especially for longline catch of adult albacore.

Recent assessments of south Pacific albacore have not considered the fisheries data in all of the eastern Pacific Ocean, thus, the eastern part of the stock remains effectively un-assessed. However, EPO catches of southern albacore have recently increased. The IATTC staff plans to undertake an assessment of south Pacific albacore in collaboration with the SPC during 2021-2022, pending funding.

Spawning occurs in tropical and subtropical waters, around 20 degrees South. Juveniles move southward from the tropics (at about 35 cm long), and then east along the Subtropical Convergence Zone to about 130 degrees W. When the fish approach maturity they return to tropical waters to spawn.

Management

Criterion score: 0.5 info

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. The responsibility for the management of Albacore in the south Pacific is shared between the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Western and Central Pacific Fishery Commission (WCPFC). Whilst these 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.

America, Fiji and New Zealand all have Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sustainable and well managed albacore fisheries.

IATTC have no specific measures in place at all for this stock, and eastern Pacific portion is not covered by the stock assessment, therefore the eastern component of this fishery - which contribute about 30% of catches - is poorly managed. The IATTC staff plans to undertake an assessment of south Pacific albacore in collaboration with the SPC during 2021-2022, pending funding.

For the western component: The WCPFC scientific committee advises that although the stock is not overfished nor being subject to overfishing, if recent catches continue the stock will decline. Longline fishing mortality and catch should be reduced to avoid further decline in the vulnerable biomass, so that economically viable catch rates can be maintained, especially for longline catches of adult albacore. Estimates of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) are highly uncertain and projections have demonstrated that longline exploitable biomass, and hence CPUE, would fall sharply if catch and effort were increased to MSY levels. In 2015, WCPFC limited the number of fishing vessels actively fishing for South Pacific albacore to 2005 levels or 2000-2004 average levels. At the same time, an interim target reference point (TRP) was meant to have been adopted but this has been deferred. While a limit reference point has been adopted (spawning stock biomass at 20% of unfished levels), the lack of a TRP has prevented progress on the development of a harvest strategy, allowing the fishery to further decline both biologically and economically. An interim TRP was adopted in 2018 - SB at 56% of unfished levels - which is just above the most recent stock status (52%) and therefore stock recovery is required. In 2018 and 2019, evaluations of different management options have been conducted with the aim of reaching the interim TRP within 20 years - although some countries were keen to see a shorter recovery time than this. Given that recent catch levels would cause the stock to decline, all recommended management scenarios required catch (and effort) reductions from the 2014-16 average (60,000t).

Both the IATTC and WCPFC have the following additional management measures:
5% observer coverage is required on longliners greater than 20m, although this is considered to be too low for accurate data: a minimum of 20% coverage is recommended. In addition, data recorded by IATTC longliners is considered inadequate for scientific purposes and minimum data standards need to be identified and introduced.
To help address IUU: an IUU Vessel List is maintained as well as a register of authorised fishing vessels; transhipments at sea for most vessels are prohibited (some exemptions apply) and most other transhipments must be documented and observed as part of the regional observer programme. Countries are required to report annually on monitoring, control and compliance of management measures. The IATTC and WCPFC endeavour to work together to promote compatibility between their respective conservation and management measures across the Pacific.
In 2017, WCPFC introduced a Compliance Monitoring Scheme to assess and improve compliance with obligations, and penalise non-compliance.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0 info

Trolling only accounts for about 3% of the total albacore catch in the South Pacific. 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. The South Pacific troll fishery is based in the coastal waters of New Zealand and along the sub-tropical convergence zone.

Alternatives

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.

Anchovy, anchovies
Arctic char
Herring or sild
Mackerel
Salmon, Atlantic (Farmed)
Salmon, Chum, Keta, Calico or Dog salmon
Salmon, Pink, Spring , humpback
Salmon, Sockeye , Red Salmon, Bluebacks, Redfish
Swordfish
Trout, Rainbow
Tuna, albacore
Tuna, skipjack
Tuna, yellowfin

References

ACAP, 2019. ACAP Review and Best Practice Advice for Reducing the Impact of Pelagic Longline Fisheries on Seabirds, Reviewed at the Eleventh Meeting of the Advisory Committee of the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels, 13 - 17 May 2019, Florianopolis, Brazil. Available at https://www.acap.aq/en/bycatch-mitigation/mitigation-advice/3498-acap-2019-review-and-best-practice-advice-for-reducing-the-impact-of-pelagic-longline-fisheries-on-seabirds/file [Accessed on 29.11.2019].

Dias, M. P., Martin. R., Pearmain, E., J., Burfield, I. J., Small, C., Phillips, R. A., Yates, O., Lascelles, B., Garcia Borboroglu, P. and Croxall, J. P., 2019. Threats to seabirds: A global assessment. Biol. Cons. 237, pp 525-537. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2019.06.033 [Accessed on 29.11.2019].

Griffiths, S. and Fuller, L., 2019. Ecosystem considerations. Document SAC-10-14 presented to the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission Scientific Advisory Committee Tenth Meeting, 13-17 May 2019, San Diego, California, USA. Available at https://www.iattc.org/Meetings/Meetings2019/SAC-10/Docs/_English/SAC-10-14_Ecosystem%20considerations.pdf [Accessed on 03.12.2019].

Hall, M., Lezama-Ochoa, N., and Roman, M., 2019. Mobulid rays. Presented to the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission Scientific Advisory Committee Tenth Meeting, 13-17 May 2019, San Diego, California, USA. Available at https://www.iattc.org/Meetings/Meetings2019/SAC-10/BYC-09/Presentations/BYC-09-PRES_Mobulids%20rays.pdf [Accessed on 03.12.2019].

IATTC, 2019. Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission: Active IATTC and AIDCP Resolutions and Recommendations. Available at https://www.iattc.org/ResolutionsActiveENG.htm [Accessed on 02.12.2019].

IATTC, 2019. Report on the tuna fishery, stocks, and ecosystem in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in 2018, Document IATTC-94-01 presented to the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission 94th Meeting, 22-26 July 2019, Bilbao, Spain. 125pp. Available at https://www.iattc.org/Meetings/Meetings2019/IATTC-94/Docs/_English/IATTC-94-01_The%20tuna%20fishery,%20stocks,%20and%20ecosystem%20in%20the%20Eastern%20Pacific%20Ocean%20in%202018.pdf [Accessed on 02.12.2019].

IATTC, 2019. The tuna fishery in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in 2018 (revised). Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission Scientific Advisory Committee Tenth Meeting, 13-17 May 2019, San Diego, California (USA). 49pp. Available at https://www.iattc.org/Meetings/Meetings2019/SAC-10/Docs/_English/SAC-10-03-REV-14-May-19_The%20tuna%20fishery%20in%20the%20EPO%20in%202018.pdf [Accessed on 03.12.2019].

IATTC, 2019. Staff recommendations for management and data collection, 2019. Document IATTC-94-03 presented to the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission 94th Meeting, 22-26 July 2019, Bilbao, Spain. Available at https://www.iattc.org/Meetings/Meetings2019/IATTC-94/Docs/_English/IATTC-94-03_Conservation%20recommendations%20by%20the%20Commission%20staff.pdf [Accessed on 03.12.2019].

Lopez, J., Lennert-Cody, C., Maunder, M., and Aires-da-Silva, A., 2019. Adjusting current fad limits to meet 2019 staff recommendations for tropical tuna management in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Document FAD-04-01 presented to the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission Ad-Hoc Permanent Working Group on Fads Fourth Meeting, 19 July 2019, Bilbao, Spain. Available at https://www.iattc.org/Meetings/Meetings2019/IATTC-94/Docs/_English/FAD-04-01_Active%20FAD%20limits.pdf [Accessed on 03.12.2019].

Lopez, J., Lennert-Cody, C. E., Maunder, M. N., Xu, H., Brodie, S., Jacox, M., Hartog, J., 2019. Developing alternative conservation measures for bigeye tuna in the eastern pacific ocean: a dynamic ocean management approach. Document SAC-10 INF-D presented to the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission Scientific Advisory Committee Tenth Meeting, 13-17 May 2019, San Diego, California, USA. 24pp. Available at https://www.iattc.org/Meetings/Meetings2019/SAC-10/INF/_English/SAC-10-INF-D_Bigeye%20tuna%20Dynamic%20Ocean%20Management.pdf [Accessed on 04.12.2019].

ISSF, 2019. Status of the world fisheries for tuna. Oct. 2019. ISSF Technical Report 2019-12. International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, Washington, D.C., USA. Available at https://iss-foundation.org/knowledge-tools/technical-and-meeting-reports/download-info/issf-2019-12-status-of-the-world-fisheries-for-tuna-october-2019/ [Accessed on 26.11.2019].

MSC, 2019. Marine Stewardship Council: Walker Seafood Australian albacore, yellowfin tuna, and swordfish longline. Available at https://fisheries.msc.org/en/fisheries/walker-seafood-australian-albacore-yellowfin-tuna-and-swordfish-longline [Accessed on 05.12.2019].

MSC, 2019. Marine Stewardship Council: Fiji albacore tuna longline. Available at https://fisheries.msc.org/en/fisheries/fiji-albacore-tuna-longline [Accessed on 05.12.2019].

Wallace, B., 2019. A call for collaboration between IAC and IATTC to save Eastern Pacific leatherbacks. Presented to the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission Scientific Advisory Committee Tenth Meeting, 13-17 May 2019, San Diego, California, USA. Available at https://www.iattc.org/Meetings/Meetings2019/SAC-10/BYC-09/Presentations/BYC-09-PRES_A%20call%20for%20collaboration%20between%20IAC%20and%20IATTC%20to%20save%20Eastern%20Pacific%20leatherbacks.pdf [Accessed on 02.12.2019].

WCPFC, 2019. Reference document for the review of CMM 2015-02 and development of harvest strategies (South Pacific albacore). Document WCPFC16-2019-18 presented to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Sixteenth Regular Session, 5 - 11 December 2019, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Available at https://www.wcpfc.int/node/44343 [Accessed on 05.12.2019].

WCPFC, 2019. Conservation and Management Measures of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Available at https://www.wcpfc.int/conservation-and-management-measures [Accessed on 05.12.2019].