Tuna, albacore

Thunnus alalunga

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Troll
Capture area — Atlantic, North (FAO 21,27) and Central (FAO 31,34)
Stock area — North Atlantic
Stock detail

All Areas


Picture of Tuna, albacore

Sustainability rating one info

Sustainability overview

The most recent assessment of the stock was carried out in 2016 using data up to 2014 and indicated that the stock was not overfished (B2015 at 1.36BMSY) or subject to overfishing (Fishing mortality, F2014at 0.54FMSY). Preliminary 2016 catch was 30,141 t, higher than both the recent average (24,489 t) and the 2017-2018 Total Allowable Catch (28,000 t), although it is below Maximum Sustainable Yield (37,082 t). There is a Multi-Annual Plan in place for North Atlantic Albacore, which has the objective of maintaining the stock in a good state with at least 60% probability. Following a review and provision of advice by the scientific committee in 2017, the plan is now supported by a Harvest Control Rule with MSY-based targets and limits. The management plan includes a TAC (Total Allowable Catch) in 2017 was 28,000 t, with individual catch limits assigned to each country. This increases to 33,600 t for 2018-2020. Since 1999, there has been a limit on the number of vessels in the fishery which appears to have reduced mortality. Approximately 21% of the albacore from the North Atlantic was caught in troll fisheries which are selective and rely on less amounts of bait than pole and line.

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 Atlantic

Stock information

Albacore stocks in the north Atlantic are assessed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Scientific studies on stocks in the North Atlantic, North Pacific and the Mediterranean, suggest that environmental variability may have a serious potential impact on albacore, affecting fisheries by changing the fishing grounds as well as productivity levels and potential MSY of the stocks. Those yet sufficiently unexplored aspects might explain recently observed changes in fisheries, such as the lack of availability of the resource in the Bay of Biscay in some years, or the apparent decline in the estimated recruitment which are demanding focussed research. Total reported landings steadily increased from 1930 to peak above 60,000 t in the early 1960s, declining afterwards, largely due to a reduction of fishing effort by the traditional surface (troll and bait boat) and longline fisheries. Some stabilization was observed in the 1990s, mainly due to increased effort and catch by new surface fisheries (driftnet and mid-water pair pelagic trawl), with a maximum catch in 2006 of 36,989 t and, since then, a generally decreasing trend of catch is observed in the North Atlantic. The historical minimum of around 15,000 t was recorded in 2009. The northern albacore stock is currently exploited mostly by surface fisheries targeting mainly immature and sub-adult fish (50 cm to 90 cm in length), but also by longline fisheries targeting immature and adult albacore (60 cm to 130 cm).

The most recent assessment of the stock was carried out in 2016 using data up to 2014. As with previous analyses, the model indicates that spawning stock biomass decreased between 1930 and the 1990s, and was in an overfished state in the 1980s and 1990s. It has had a recovery since then, and fishing mortality has decreased. While biomass, B, is estimated to be above Maximum Sustainable Yield (B2015/BMSY = 1.36), there are concerns that this might be overestimated. Fishing effort, F, is below (F2014/FMSY = 0.54). The probability of the stock currently not being overfished and not undergoing overfishing is 96.8%.

2017 catch was 28,310 t, higher than both the recent average (26,550 t) and the 2017 Total Allowable Catch (28,000 t), although it is below Maximum Sustainable Yield (37,082 t). The Harvest Control Rule adopted in 2018 is expected to maintain the stock in a good state with at least 60% probability. Since the establishment of the TAC in the year 2001, catch has remained substantially below the limit in all but four years, which might have accelerated rebuilding over the last decade.

The next stock assessment is due in 2020.

Management

Criterion score: 0.25 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.

There is a Multi-Annual Plan in place for North Atlantic Albacore. Following a review and provision of advice by the scientific committee in 2017, the plan is now supported by a scientifically robust (according to a peer-review in 2018) Harvest Control Rule with MSY-based targets and limits. It is expected to maintain the stock in a good state with at least 60% probability. The management plan includes the following measures:
The TAC (Total Allowable Catch) in 2017 is 28,000 t, with individual catch limits assigned to each country. This increases to 33,600 t for 2018-2020.
Since 1999, capacity has been limited to the average number of vessels from 1993-1995. The effect of this has not been evaluated but a general decrease of fishing mortality has been observed since its implementation.
ICCAT maintains a list of vessels over 20m authorised to fish for these species, although other vessels may retain them as bycatch as long as the country sets limits on this and doesn’t exceed its quota.

Other management measures of note include:
There is a mandatory level of observer coverage of 5%, which may not have been implemented by many fleets, although some fleets are currently implementing voluntary observer programmes that cover 100% of fishing trips. This is in spite of scientific committee recommendation of a minimum of 20% for accurate reporting of bycatch. Purse seine and longline vessels over 20m long are encouraged to increase their observer coverage from the required minimum. Vessel Monitoring Systems are required for all vessels over 24m.
In 2015 a working group was formed to look at ways to reduce juvenile catches of bigeye and yellowfin tuna caught in FAD fishing.
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 info

Approximately 19% of the albacore from the North Atlantic is caught in troll surface fisheries. These fisheries are mainly EU fleets from Spain, with lesser catches from Ireland, France and Portugal in the Bay of Biscay, in the adjacent waters of the northeast Atlantic and in the vicinity of the Canary and Azores Islands in summer and autumn. The surface fisheries (troll and pole & line) generally target smaller (50 to 90cm FL) and younger fish, but are a very selective method of fishing and have minimal impact on bycatch species.

ICCAT aims to take an ecosystem-based and precautionary approach to fisheries management.

For sharks: Countries are required to develop and submit National Plans of Action for the conservation and management of sharks. Sharks must be fully utilised (e.g. no removal of fins). Sharks must be released wherever possible (if not being directly targeted) and countries must try to minimise bycatch of sharks (although no gear-specific measures are identified). Catching silky sharks, hammerheads, oceanic whitetips, and bigeye threshers is prohibited, and catching other thresher species is discouraged. Shortfin mako can be caught and retained, but as of 2017 the country’s law must require a minimum length of 180cm for males and 210cm for females, otherwise, shortfin makos caught alive must be released unharmed. This is expected to prevent the stock’s currently poor state from worsening, and a rebuilding plan will be developed for 2019. In 2016 additional measures for blue shark were introduced, mainly focussed on improved data recording, with potential to introduce Harvest Control Rules. A catch limit of 39,102 t was also introduced in the north Atlantic (but none for the south Atlantic): if exceeded the commission has committed to reviewing the effectiveness of its blue shark management measures. Preliminary catch in 2016 was 42,117 t. Porbeagle is overfished throughout the Atlantic, significantly so in the northwest, and for the north Atlantic overall it is predicted to take at least 30 years to recover if there was zero fishing mortality. The main porbeagle-directed fisheries (EU, Uruguay and Canada) have closed, and ICCAT have a recommendation to release live porbeagle unharmed, but it is still caught incidentally and discarded, and also landed by other fleets. Currently there is not enough data to properly assess the status of many pelagic sharks (no assessments have been carried out for the Mediterranean).

There is a mandatory level of observer coverage of 5%, which may not have been implemented by many fleets, in spite of scientific committee recommendation of a minimum of 20% for accurate reporting of bycatch. However, some fleets are currently implementing voluntary observer programmes that cover 100% of fishing trips.

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

ICCAT, 2018. Report of the Standing Committee on Research and Statistics (SCRS) of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, 1-5 October 2018, Madrid, Spain. 469 pp. Available at https://www.iccat.int/Documents/Meetings/Docs/2018/REPORTS/2018_SCRS_REP_ENG.pdf [Accessed on 22.11.2018].

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

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].