Whilst biomass reference points (relating to MSY) have not been established for the North Pacific albacore fisheries, the current stock status meets the internationally agreed objective to not allow stocks to fall below the average of the 10 worst historical levels. Biomass has been quite stable in recent years, and whilst the fisheries were believed to be subject to overfishing, they are not currently. The troll and pole and line fisheries are very selective and represent the most sustainable option. The longline fishery here is associated with the bycatch of vulnerable species, such as sharks, turtles and seabirds in particular. Vessels are required to employ at least two bird mitigation measures, such as weighted baits and streamer lines, yet the widespread monitoring of these measures remains deficient. There are a number of albacore fisheries in the North Pacific that are certified as sustainable, well managed fisheries by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) which represent the best choice.
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.
The North Pacific albacore fishery was last assessed by the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean (ISC) in 2011. The total annual catches of North Pacific albacore peaked in 1976 at about 125,000 t, declined to about 38,000 t in 1991, and then increased to about 122,000 t in 1999. The 2005 to 2011 average annual catch was about 75,000t. Biomass reference points have not been established for this fishery due to a lack of long-term data available. However, an interim management objective to maintain the spawning stock biomass (SSB) above the average of the ten historically lowest estimated points (ATHL) with a probability greater than 50% is in place. Results of the latest assessment indicate that this objective is being achieved. The SSB is estimated to be at the historical median and, based on catch rates in recent years, the SSB is expected to remain at this level, assuming the average recruitment and recently observed fishing effort is maintained. Overfishing was believed to be occurring in previous years, yet the imposition of catch quotas in 2009 and adherence to these has improved this. The ISC concluded that the North Pacific albacore stock is healthy (not overfished) and at current levels of recruitment and fishing mortality is not being subject to overfishing.
A complete stock assessment is scheduled for 2014.
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 Anti-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Western and Central Pacific Fishery Commission (WCPFC). 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. 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.
There is no Total Allowable Catch (TAC) set for this stock however country set catch quotas have reportedly been adhered to since 2009. Both IATTC and WCPFC have measures in place to limit fishing effort or fishing capacity to not exceed the level experienced in 2005.
To help address IUU, both the IATTC and the WCPFC maintain an IUU Vessel list as well as a register of large longliners that are authorised to target albacore; it is also prohibited to undertake transhipments at sea between purse seiners (Some exemptions apply) and requires all other transhipments to be documented and 100% observed as part of the regional observer programme.
Approximately 34% of the albacore in the North Pacific is caught in surface pole and line fisheries. This is a very labour intensive yet very selective method of fishing with virtually no impact on non-target species. Some concern has been raised over the high volume of baitfish used in these fisheries, yet these impacts are not assessed. Troll and pole and line caught albacore represents the most sustainable option.
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.
IATTC, 2013. The fishery for tunas and billfish in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in2012. 4th meeting of scientific advisory committee. La Jolla, California (USA), 29 April -3 May 2013. Document SAC 04-03(Revised). Available at http://www.iattc.org/Meetings/Meetings2013/MaySAC/Pdfs/SAC-04-03-Fishery-in-the-EPO-2012REV.pdf [Accessed Nov 2013].
IATTC, 2012. Scientific meeting. La Jolla, California (USA), 15-18 May 2012. Available at http://www.iattc.org/Meetings/Meetings2012/May/PDFs/SAC-03-Meeting-report.pdf [Accessed Dec 2012].
ISSF, 2013. ISSF Tuna Stock Status Update, 2013(2): Status of the world fisheries for tuna. ISSF Technical Report 2013-04A. International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, Washington, D.C., USA. Available at http://iss-foundation.org/resources/downloads/?did=487 [Accessed Nov 2013].
www.fishbase.org [Accessed Nov 2013].
WCFPC 2011. Stock assessment of albacore tuna in the North Pacific Ocean in 2011. Northern Committee seventh regular session, 6-9 September 2011,Sapporo, Japan. Available at http://www.wcpfc.int/node/3948 [Accessed Dec 2012].
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