Tuna, albacore

Thunnus alalunga

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Pole & line
Capture area — North Pacific (FAO 61,71,77)
Stock area — North Pacific
Stock detail

All Areas


Picture of Tuna, albacore

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

The North Pacific albacore stock was last assessed in 2017 indicating the stock was not overfished nor being subject to overfishing. The 2016 catch was well below the maximum sustainable yield of 132,072 t. Juvenile albacore aged 2 to 4 years comprised, on average, 70% of the annual catch between 1993 and 2015, owing to the larger impact of the surface fisheries (primarily troll, pole-and-line) which remove juvenile fish, as opposed to longline fisheries, which primarily remove adult fish. In 2005 IATTC and WCPFC adopted matching management measures for North Pacific Albacore to freeze fishing effort to the levels at the time and instigate regular catch reporting, and the current exploitation levels are estimated to be below that. A limit reference point is in place but there is no agreed target reference point nor harvest control rule. About 37% of the catch is taken in pole & line fisheries. Pole & line fishing is very selective but does contribute to catches of juvenile catches of tunas, and does rely on a substantial amount of small live fish for bait. The total catch of bait fish in pole & line fisheries is generally considered low compared to targeted fisheries for these species and is unlikely to overexploit these stocks, but could have implications for local availability.

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

North Pacific

Stock information

The North Pacific albacore fishery is assessed by the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean (ISC) and responsibility for management of the stock is shared between the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Western and Central Pacific Fishery Commission (WCPFC). A new assessment was carried out in 2017, with some major improvements compared to the previous one in 2014. The timeframe was shortened from 1966-2012 to 1993-2015, eliminating poorly fit size composition data, and substantial improvements were made to methods for estimating adult albacore abundance. Some uncertainty about growth parameters remains and there is a need for Pacific-wide data collection to address this.

Catches during the period of the new assessment (1993-2015) reached a peak of 119,300 t in 1999 and then declined in the early 2000s, followed by a recovery. The 2016 catch was 53,543 t, lower than the 2011-2015 average of 73,715 and the MSY of 132,072. Juvenile albacore aged 2 to 4 years comprised, on average, 70% of the annual catch between 1993 and 2015, owing to the larger impact of the surface fisheries (primarily troll, pole-and-line) which remove juvenile fish, as opposed to longline fisheries, which primarily remove adult fish.

The assessment indicates that the stock is not overfished relative to maximum sustainable yield (SSBfemale 2015 is 3.2SSBfemale MSY) or the limit reference point adopted by the WCPFC , which is 20% of the spawning stock biomass when F=0 (SSB:20%SSBcurrent, F=0, which is 2.47). No similar reference points have been adopted to evaluate overfishing, but stock status was evaluated against seven potential reference points and current fishing intensity is below six of them.

If recent average catches continue (2010-2014 average = 82,432 t) then the probability of the stock entering an overfished state by 2025 is 30%.

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.

A number of American and Canadian albacore fisheries are certified as sustainable and well managed by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and represent the best options.

In 2005 IATTC and WCPFC adopted matching management measures for North Pacific Albacore to freeze fishing effort to 2002-2004 levels and instigate regular catch reporting, and the current exploitation level (2010-2012) is indeed estimated to be below those levels. In 2017 an Interim Harvest Strategy for North Pacific albacore was adopted, replacing the 2014 management framework and supporting the measures to limit fishing effort. The management objective is to maintain the biomass around its 2017 level in order to allow recent exploitation levels to continue with a low risk of breaching the limit reference point (LRP). The LRP is 20 percent of unfished levels, consistent with limits for the three tropical tuna species and South Pacific albacore. If this point is breached, management actions (a rebuilding plan lasting up to 10 years) will be taken to return the stock to a predetermined level. The target reference point (TRP) will be determined following a management strategy evaluation.

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: 0.25 info

37% of the albacore in the North Pacific is caught in surface pole and line fisheries.

Pole and line fisheries generally target smaller albacore which tend to stay closer to the surface. This is a labour intensive yet very selective method of fishing with very little impact on non-target species, yet considerable amounts of bait fish are used in these fisheries to attract the albacore. Whilst bait fish are usually small, resilient species, it is important that these stocks are monitored.

References

IATTC, 2017. Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission: Active IATTC and AIDCP Resolutions and Recommendations. Available at https://www.iattc.org/ResolutionsActiveENG.htm [Accessed on 20.11.2017].

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.

ISC, 2017. ISC annual catch tables 2017. Seventeenth meeting of the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-Like Species in the North Pacific Ocean, Plenary Session, 12-17 July 2017, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Available at http://isc.fra.go.jp/reports/isc/isc17_reports.html [Accessed on 24.11.2017].

ISC, 2017. Report of the seventeenth meeting of the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-Like Species in the North Pacific Ocean, Plenary Session, 12-17 July 2017, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. 63pp. Available at http://isc.fra.go.jp/reports/isc/isc17_reports.html [Accessed on 24.11.2017].

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].

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 Northern Committee of the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, 28 August - 1 September 2017, Busan, Republic of Korea. 56 pp. Available 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]