The status of the albacore stock in the Indian Ocean is highly uncertain and the most recent assessment suggests that it is at considerable risk under current levels of fishing pressure which is too high. Due to the high level of effort in the pelagic longline fishery (>140 million hooks per annum) the impact of the industrial longline fishery on non target species is deemed a critical conservation concern with likely negative ecosystem effects. Management of the stock is deemed ineffective. Avoid longline caught albacore from the Indian Ocean.
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 10 years. Albacore mature when about 90cm length and 4-5 years old. Spawning normally occurs between January and July.
Indian Ocean tuna stocks are managed by IOTC - the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission. Albacore is assessed as Data Deficient by IUCN - the World Conservation Union. The most recent assessment for the Indian Ocean albacore stock (December 2011) suggests that it is at considerable risk under current levels of fishing pressure. The stock is not in an overfished state (SSB>SSBMSY) but it is experiencing overfishing (F>FMSY) i.e. fishing effort is too high. Although there is much uncertainty surrounding the data for this assessment there is a clear need for the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission to tighten regulations to better control the harvest of albacore tuna from this stock.
The vast majority (98%) of albacore in the Indian Ocean is captured as a target species and as bycatch by drifting longlines, with over 140 million hooks per year being set. Albacore is a very important component of the Taiwanese longline fishery. Longlining is a less fuel intensive and more selective method of fishing. There is however, a possible bycatch of shark, other tuna and billfish, and non-target species including sea turtles and seabirds depending on area and fishing activity, which is deemed a critical conservation concern. This method of fishing may be carried out on a large, industrial scale or on a small, artisanal scale. Industrial longlines used for tuna fishing are made up of units (sometimes known as 'baskets'), each of which consists of a main horizontal line about 250-800m long with 4-15 branch-lines. Each branch-line has a wire leader and a hook. A typical set consists of 200 or more units or 'baskets' connected together, with a buoy at each connection, and a total of about 3,000 hooks. Industrial longliners are large, specialised boats, typically 30-70m length, and can stay away from their home port for 10-24 months. By comparison, artisanal fishermen use shorter lines and fewer hooks, usually between 100 and 300 per line. Boats are smaller, typically 12-15m length, and fish for 1-14 days at a time depending on weather conditions. Recently, the IOTC adopted a resolution requiring all longline fishing vessels fishing south of 30 degrees south to implement measures to reduce the bycatch of seabirds. The fisheries must choose two measures from: using tori lines (bird streamers) to discourage birds from flying near the lines; setting their hooks at night (when birds are less active); dyeing the bait blue (to make it less visible to the birds); and adding weight to the lines (so that they sink quickly). These measures will help to reduce the capture, injury and mortality of threatened seabirds which exist in this area - such as the Amsterdam albatross (whose entire global population has been reduced to 130 birds, all of which live on Amsterdam island in the southern Indian Ocean), shy albatross and the black-browed and wandering albatrosses.
(Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 3 and below are included.)
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