Tuna, albacore

Thunnus alalunga

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Troll
Capture area — South Pacific (FAO 81,87,71,77)
Stock area — South Pacific
Stock detail

All Areas


Picture of Tuna, albacore

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

The South Pacific albacore stock was last carried out in 2015 and indicated that similar to previous years, the fishery is in a healthy state and not overfished nor subject to overfishing. This stock straddles two jurisdictions. In 2015, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) limited the number of fishing vessels actively fishing for South Pacific albacore to 2005 or recent historical (2000-2004) levels. At the same time, an interim target reference point was meant to have been adopted but this has thus far not been agreed although a limit reference point of has been adopted. The lack of a target reference point has prevented progress on the development of a harvest strategy, and increased catches may reduce catch per unit effort. There are no specific measures for the area of the fishery in the area managed by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC). Only 4% of the catch is taken in troll fisheries which are very selective and use less amounts of baitfish than pole & line fishing and is expected to have a low or negligible impact on baitfish stocks.

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

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). Annual catch estimates for albacore in the south Pacific as a whole peaked in 2010 at 91,984 t. The provisional 2016 total south Pacific catch was 71,407 mt, a decrease from the previous few years. Catch by longliners represented 97% of the catch weight, with troll fisheries accounting for mush of the rest.

The latest stock assessment was carried out in 2015, and extended from 1960 to 2013. It indicated that similar to previous years, the fishery is in a healthy state and not overfished (Spawning biomass, SB at 2.86 SBmsy) nor subject to overfishing (Fishing mortality, F, at 0.39 Fmsy). Estimated maximum sustainable yield (MSY) is 76,800t. If 2015 fishing effort levels continue into the future, the stock is predicted to continue to decline on average, with SB likely to fall to 35% of unfished levels in 2033 (but remain above the limit reference point of 20%). WCPFC’s scientific committee advises that longline fishing mortality and longline catch 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. A new assessment is expected in 2018.

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 North 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.

The WCPFC scientific committee advises that although the stock is not overfished nor being subject to overfishing, longline fishing mortality and longline 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. Thus far, no measures have been introduced to record catches, and IATTC have no specific measures in place at all for this stock. Following recommendations from the scientific committee for performance indicators and monitoring strategies for South Pacific albacore, WCPFC have stated that they will work on a roadmap in 2018 to implement the elements needed for the effective conservation and management for the stock. The roadmap will use the revised 2018 stock assessment and will recommend an overall limit for the fishery, how it could be distributed and the actions required to achieve biological and economic stability, including a target reference point and harvest strategy.

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 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. The South Pacific troll fishery is based in the coastal waters of New Zealand and along the sub-tropical convergence zone.

References

Brouwer, S., Pilling, G., Williams, P., WCPFC Secretariat , 2017. Trends in the South Pacific albacore longline and troll fisheries, Document WCPFC-SC13-2017/SA-WP-08 for the Thirteenth Regular Session of the Scientific Committee of the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, 9 - 17 August 2017, Rarotonga, Cook Islands. 70 pp. Available at https://www.wcpfc.int/meetings/sc13 [Accessed on 27.11.2017].

IATTC, 2017. Tunas, billfishes and other pelagic species in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in 2016. Document IATTC-92-04a for the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission 92nd Meeting, 24-28 July 2017, Mexico City, Mexico. 129 pp. Available at https://www.iattc.org/Meetings/Meetings2017/IATTC-92/IATTC-AIDCP-Annual-Meetings-JUL2017ENG.htm [Accessed on 09.11.2017].

IPNLF, 2012. Ensuring sustainability of live bait fish, International Pole and Line Foundation, London, 57 pp.

ISSF, 2017. Status of the world fisheries for tuna: November 2017. ISSF Technical Report 2017-02A. International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, Washington, D.C., USA. 98 pp. Available at: https://iss-foundation.org/about-tuna/status-of-the-stocks/ [Accessed on 20.11.2017].

MSC, 2017. Marine Stewardship Council: Track a Fishery. Available at https://fisheries.msc.org [Accessed on 20.11.2017].

WCPFC, 2017. Conservation and Management Measures of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Available at https://www.wcpfc.int/conservation-and-management-measures [Accessed on 18.12.2017].

WCPFC, 2017. Provisional outcomes document, WCPFC14-2017-outcomes, from the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Fourteenth Regular Session (As at 18 December 2017), 3-7 December 2017, Manila, Philippines. 15 pp. Available at https://www.wcpfc.int/meetings/wcpfc14 [Accessed on 18.12.2017].

WCPFC, 2017. Summary Report of the Thirteenth Regular Session of the Scientific Committee of the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, 9 - 17 August 2017, Rarotonga, Cook Islands. 281 pp. Available at https://www.wcpfc.int/meetings/sc13 [Accessed on 27.11.2017].