Tuna, albacore

Thunnus alalunga

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Longline
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 three info

Sustainability overview

The latest stock assessment for albacore in the South Pacific was carried out in 2018, using data up to 2016 and only covered the area under the jurisdiction of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Although estimates are wide ranging, all models show that the stock is not overfished nor undergoing overfishing. The preliminary estimate of total catch of south Pacific albacore (within the WCPFC Convention Area south of the equator) for 2017 was 75,707t, which was a 33% increase from 2016 and a 13% increase over 2012-2016. Estimates of Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) are highly uncertain and projections have demonstrated that longline exploitable biomass, and catch per unit effort 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 was meant to have been adopted but this has been deferred and this has prevented progress on the development of a harvest strategy.

About 96% of the catch is taken in pelagic longline fisheries which can be associated with significant bycatch of other billfish and vulnerable species such as sharks, turtles, birds. Whilst there are some mitigation measures in place to reduce the impact, monitoring and reporting of interactions is insufficient to evaluate the effectiveness of these measures. There is 5% observer coverage on large longliners, but 20% is considered to be the minimum to be effective.

There is concern that some seabird species, notably albatrosses and petrels, are threatened with global extinction. Of critical concern is Antipodean wandering albatross, which is expanding foraging range into tuna fishery areas and has experienced a high and sustained rate of decline. High bycatch of seabirds, especially albatross, continue to be reported by some countries fishing south of 30 degrees south.

Buyers need to ensure that any swordfish being sourced from south of 30 degrees south is only coming from fleets that are either MSC certified or in a credible Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) or are using best practice seabird bycatch mitigation measures that are being well monitored. Large buyers should consider supporting improvements needed to achieve this.

Commercial buyers should establish what measures the flag state and fleet relating to their source is taking to reduce impacts to and improve reporting of interactions with vulnerable species. Large buyers should consider supporting such improvements.

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 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 median estimate is 52% (estimates range from 37%-63%). Recent average fishing mortality is estimated to be well below FMSY (median Frecent=FMSY = 0.2, with a range of 0.08 to 0.41) with a 0% probability that the recent fishing mortality had exceeded FMSY. Throughout the time period of the model, fishing mortality on adults steadily increased up to 2010, and then declined following the decline in longline seen since 2010. Juvenile fishing mortality increased until around 1990, and has remained stable at a low level since that time. The preliminary estimate of total catch of south Pacific albacore (within the WCPFC Convention Area south of the equator) for 2017 was 75,707mt, which was a 33% increase from 2016 and a 13% increase over 2012-2016. As with previous scientific advice, it is recommended that longline fishing mortality and longline 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. Note that 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 will remain effectively un-assessed. Approximately 71% of the catch occurs in the WCPO and 29% in the EPO.

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.

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: 0.75 info

96% of albacore in the South Pacific is caught in pelagic longline fisheries.

Longlining targets larger, mature fish yet is often associated with the bycatch of vulnerable species such as seabirds, turtles and sharks. To address this, both the IATTC and the WCPFC require a number of mitigation measures.
Seabirds: Longliners must use one or more seabird bycatch mitigation measures from a set list of options, depending on vessel size and fishing location, including weighted branch line, bird scaring lines, and night setting. However, recommended best practice is for those three measures to be applied simultaneously.
Turtles: vessels must carry line cutters and de-hookers to promptly release turtles or to foster to recovery any sick or comatose turtles captured. WCPFC also requires the use of circle hooks for shallow set gear for swordfish to reduce turtle capture, however a study in 2017 noted that less than 1% of Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) longline effort is subject to mitigation, even though approximately 20% of the WCPO longline effort consists of shallow sets. IATTC have noted that mortality rates of turtles due to longlining are possibly greater for those that set their lines at shallower depths at night for albacore and swordfish, although WCPFC notes that there are significantly more deep sets than shallow sets and a lower chance of live release from deep sets.
Sharks: permissible sharks are to be fully utilized and no more than 5% of fins to total shark weight can be retained; there is a prohibition to land oceanic whitetips and silky sharks (and mobula rays in IATTC area); and countries must develop national plans of action to address the bycatch of sharks, turtles and seabirds. Shark lines are prohibited. For fisheries specifically targeting sharks, countries are required to develop management plans, demonstrating how they intend to avoid or reduce catches of highly depleted shark species. For the IATTC, any shark (whether alive or dead) caught that is not retained must be promptly released unharmed, following safe release requirements. There are special measures to protect silky sharks, including a limit on bycatch of silky sharks to a maximum of 20% of the total catch by fishing trip in weight. In 2016, WCPFC adopted measures to improve recording of manta and mobula rays discarded and released, and to treat these species as key shark species for assessment and research. The scientific committee has noted that target and limit reference points have not yet been established for pelagic sharks by WCPFC.
Monitoring and reporting is deficient in many fisheries, and the effectiveness of these measures has not been evaluated. In 2016 IATTC introduced stricter monitoring and reporting of catches of shark species, but the scientific committee continues to advise that shark data collection is inadequate and must be improved. The scientific committee has also recommended stricter requirements for seabird mitigation techniques and proof of effectiveness before new techniques are introduced.
There is 100% observer coverage on large purse seiners in the EPO so the data coming from these fleets should be useful and of high quality. Only 5% observer coverage is required on longliners greater than 20m in length, although the scientific committee recommends 20% coverage and improved standards of data collection.

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
Salmon, Atlantic (Farmed)
Salmon, Chinook, King Salmon
Salmon, Chum, Keta, Calico or Dog salmon
Salmon, Coho , Silver, White
Salmon, Pink, Spring , humpback
Salmon, Sockeye , Red Salmon, Bluebacks, Redfish
Sprat, whitebait
Swordfish
Trout, Rainbow
Tuna, albacore
Tuna, bigeye
Tuna, skipjack
Tuna, yellowfin

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].

Fishery Progress, 2018. Fishery Improvement Project Directory. Available at https://fisheryprogress.org/ [Accessed on 05.12.2018].

IATTC, 2018. Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission: Active IATTC and AIDCP Resolutions and Recommendations. Available at https://www.iattc.org/ResolutionsActiveENG.htm [Accessed on 05.12.2018].

IATTC, 2018. Staff recommendations for management and data collection. Document SAC-09-15 Rev 2 for the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission Scientific Advisory Committee, Ninth Meeting, 14-18 May 2018, La Jolla, California, USA, 15 pp. Available at https://www.iattc.org/Meetings/Meetings2018/SAC-09/9th-Meeting-Scientific-Advisory-Committee.htm [Accessed on 05.12.2018].

IATTC, 2018. Tunas, Billfishes and Other Pelagic Species in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in 2017. Document IATTC-93-01 for the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission 93rd meeting, 24 and 27-30 August 2018, San Diego, California. 115 pp. Available at https://www.iattc.org/Meetings/Meetings2018/IATTC-93/IATTC-AIDCP-Annual-Meetings-AUG2018ENG.htm [accessed on 05.12.2018].

ISSF, 2018. Status of the world fisheries for tuna: October 2018. ISSF Technical Report 2018-21. International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, Washington, D.C., USA. 103 pp. Available at: https://iss-foundation.org/about-tuna/status-of-the-stocks/ [Accessed on 06.12.2018].

Tremblay-Boyer, L., Hampton, J., McKechnie, S., Pilling, G., 2018. Stock assessment of South Pacific albacore tuna, WCPFC-SC14-2018/ SA-WP-05. Rev. 2 (2 August 2018) for the Fourteenth 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, 8-16 August 2018, Busan, Republic of Korea. 113 pp. Available at https://www.wcpfc.int/meetings/14th-regular-session-scientific-committee [Accessed on 06.12.2018].

WCPFC, 2018. Conservation and Management Measures of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Available at https://www.wcpfc.int/conservation-and-management-measures [Accessed on 06.12.2018].