Tuna, albacore

Thunnus alalunga

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Pole & line
Capture area — Atlantic, South (FAO 41,47)
Stock area — South Atlantic
Stock detail — All Areas
Picture of Tuna, albacore

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

Updated: December 2019 

Albacore stocks in the south Atlantic are assessed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). The latest stock assessment was undertaken in 2016 and indicated that it was likely that the stock was not overfished nor experiencing overfishing, although the biomass, is estimated to be only slightly above the level associated with Maximum Sustainable Yield (B2015 at 1.1BMSY). From 2017-2020 the TAC (Total Allowable Catch) is 24,000 t, with individual catch limits assigned to each country. If the TAC is exceeded in 2016 it will be reduced accordingly in 2018. There is no agreed harvest control rule, but there is implied agreement to keep the stock above and below MSY reference points for biomass and mortality respectively. Projections suggest that catches consistent with the TAC lead to a greater than 60% probability of the stock being in a good state by 2020. Recent catches have been well below the TAC - preliminary 2018 catch was 17,098t.

Approximately 27% of the albacore from the South Atlantic was caught in pole and line surface fisheries which are selective yet rely on large amounts of live bait fish. Whilst the scale of this is unlikely to overexploit stocks of these species, it could have implications for local availability.


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

Albacore stocks in the south Atlantic are assessed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). The most recent assessment of the stock was carried out in 2016 using data up to 2014 and used a number of scenarios to look at current status. Considering all scenarios, there is a 66% probability that the stock is neither overfished nor experiencing overfishing. Biomass, B, is estimated to be above Maximum Sustainable Yield, BMSY (B2015/BMSY = 1.10, ranging between 0.51 and 1.80) and fishing effort, F, is below (F2014/FMSY = 0.54, ranging from 0.31 to 0.87). The stock status has improved since the last assessment.

Albacore landings increased sharply to around 25,000 tonnes from 1960s to the 1980s, increased again to 35,000t until the 2000s, then dropped to around 20,000t. 2017 catch was around 13,800 t - one of the lowest on record, but in 2018 this increased to a preliminary 17,098t. Estimated Maximum Sustainable Yield is 25,901t, with quite a wide range of uncertainty (15,270-31,768t). The TAC (Total Allowable Catch) for 2017-2020 is 24,000t, and projections suggest that catches consistent with the TAC would result in the stock being in a good state in 2020 with higher than 60% probability. The next stock assessment is expected in 2020.


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. To try and address this, 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. This stock is managed and assessed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). 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. There remain large data deficiencies in most tuna and billfish fisheries, particularly with regards to fine scale spatial and temporal data for both target and especially for vulnerable bycatch species. For this reason, it is important to choose tuna that has been caught by vessels that are well regulated by their flag state.

From 2017-2020 the TAC (Total Allowable Catch) is 24,000 t, with individual catch limits assigned to each country. If the TAC is exceeded in 2016 it will be reduced accordingly in 2018. Projections suggest that catches consistent with the TAC lead to a greater than 60% probability of the stock being in a good state by 2020, lower TACs would increase the probability, and catches above 26,000 t would reduce probability to less than 60%.
ICCAT maintains a list of vessels over 20m authorised to fish for this species, although other vessels may retain them as bycatch as long as the country sets limits on this and doesn’t exceed its quota.
In 2016 countries were mandated to immediately improve their catch reporting systems to ensure the reporting of accurate and validated southern Atlantic albacore catch and effort data to ICCAT.

Other management measures of note include:
In 2019 ICCAT increased observer coverage: large purse seiners targeting tropical tunas must have 100% coverage year round rather than just during the FAD closures, and longline coverage will increase from 5% to 10% in 2022. However, the 5% coverage was not well complied with or enforced by some fleets (although others exceeded it), and even this increase falls short of recommendations for a minimum of 20% for accurate reporting of bycatch. However, standards for electronic monitoring are to be developed by 2021. Purse seine and longline vessels over 20m long are encouraged to increase their observer coverage from the required minimum, and some have. Vessel Monitoring Systems are required for all vessels over 24m.
Drift nets are banned in the Mediterranean.
ICCAT maintains lists of vessels authorised to fish for tuna and tuna-like species in the ICCAT area, and those caught carrying out Illegal, Unreported or Unregulated activities.
At-sea transhipment is prohibited unless pre-authorised and the vessel has an observer on board.
In 2017 ICCAT banned the discarding of skipjack, yellowfin and bigeye.
In 2016 the Commission passed measures to strengthen and streamline its compliance assessment process and to develop a scheme of responses to non-compliance.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

The recent total annual South Atlantic albacore landings were largely attributed to four fisheries, namely the surface bait boat fleets of South Africa and Namibia, and the longline fleets of Brazil and Chinese Taipei. The surface fleets are entirely albacore directed and mainly catch juvenile and sub adult fish (70cm to 90cm FL). On average, the longline vessels catch larger albacore (60cm to 120cm FL) than the surface fleets. 73% of the catch is made by longlining and 26% by pole and line, with smaller amounts from troll & jig bait boats. Pole & line and troll fisheries are more labour intensive than other methods, but are far more selective. Some concern has been raised over the unknown impacts on bait fish populations used in the pole & line fishery.


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
Horse Mackerel, Scad
Kingfish, yellowtail
Salmon, Atlantic (Farmed)
Salmon, Chum, Keta, Calico or Dog salmon
Salmon, Pink, Spring , humpback
Salmon, Sockeye , Red Salmon, Bluebacks, Redfish
Trout, Rainbow
Tuna, albacore
Tuna, skipjack
Tuna, yellowfin


EC, 2019. European Commission Press: Good news for tuna and blue sharks, 29.11.2019. Available at https://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/press/good-news-tuna-and-blue-sharks_en [Accessed on 09.12.2019].

ICCAT, 2019. Report of the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, 30 September - 4 October 2019, Madrid, Spain. 459 pp. Available at https://www.iccat.int/Documents/Meetings/Docs/2019/REPORTS/2019_SCRS_ENG.pdf [Accessed on 09.12.2019].

ISSF, 2019. International Seafood Sustainability Foundation Blog: ICCAT Moves to Protect Atlantic Bigeye and Close Gaps in Monitoring and Data Collection, 4 December 2019. Available at https://iss-foundation.org/iccat-moves-to-protect-atlantic-bigeye-and-close-gaps-in-monitoring-and-data-collection/ [Accessed on 09.12.2019].

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].

ICCAT, 2018. Resolutions, Recommendations and other Decisions. Available at http://www.iccat.es/en/RecsRegs.asp [Accessed on 11.12.2018].

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