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Tuna, albacore

Thunnus alalunga

Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - All applicable methods
Capture area - Mediterranean (FAO 37)
Stock area - Mediterranean
Stock detail - All Areas
Accreditation -
Fish type - Oily fish

Sustainability rating Click for explaination of rating

This fish, caught by the methods and in the area listed above, is the least sustainable fish to eat and should be avoided. Click on the rating icon above to read more and on the alternatives tab below to find sustainable fish to eat.


Sustainability overview

Relatively stable catches over the last decade suggest the stock is not being subject to overfishing, however there was insufficient data to determine MSY reference points or status of the biomass. There are no management measures for the stock and management and monitoring from the main participating country, Italy, appears to be deficient.

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

Stock area
Mediterranean

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Stock information
Albacore is assessed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). In 2012, the reported landings were 2,085 t, substantially below those in the last decade and the previous five year average of 4068t. The scientific committee however, note that historical and current catch monitoring is deficient for this fishery. The status of albacore stocks in the Mediterranean is based on the 2011 assessment using available data up to 2009 and 2010, respectively. Due to relatively stable exploitation rates over the last decade, this assessment suggested that overfishing was unlikely to be occurring, although considerable uncertainty was noted. The committee were unable to provide the status of biomass due to the lack of data available for the assessment. As a result, future stock status in response to management actions could not be simulated. The outlook for this stock is therefore unknown.

Management

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. Albacore stocks in the Atlantic are 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. For this reason, it is important to choose tuna that has been caught by vessels that are well regulated by their flag state. Most of the albacore in the Mediterranean (70%) is caught by Italy whose management and implementation of ICCAT measures appears insufficient.

There are no conservation and management measures for the Mediterranean albacore stock. The scientific committee has recommended that ICATT adopt measures designed to limit increases in catch and fishing effort directed at Mediterranean albacore. However, the 2011 and 2012 Commission meetings did not adopt any conservation measures for the stock.

ICCAT management and conservation measures of note that apply to vessels operating in the ICATT jurisdiction include:

A prohibition to retain at risk shark species including: bigeye thresher, oceanic whitetip, hammerhead and silky sharks. This has been in place for over three years, yet ICCAT has not received records of compliance from the majority of member states.

A combination of at least two bird mitigation measures are required to be used for pelagic longline fisheries, yet monitoring and data relating to this and other vulnerable bycatch species is deficient.

ICCAT have developed an IUU vessel register and a register of vessels authorised to undertake transhipments at sea. Additionally, transhipments at sea can only take place if an ICCAT Observer is onboard the receiving vessel. ICCAT have also developed a vessel register for vessels over 20m in length.

Capture information

Approximately 51% of the catch is taken in pelagic longline fisheries and about 48% in surface fisheries such as gill net, purse seine, troll and pole and line fisheries. Italy is the main producer of Mediterranean albacore, with 70% of the catch during the last 10 years. Mediterranean longline and gill net fisheries are associated with bycatch of sharks, birds and turtles. And whilst there are ICCAT recommendations to adopt bycatch mitigation measures, monitoring in these fisheries is deficient. Pole and line represents the most selective method of fishing for this stock, yet the proportion attributed to this method is unknown and likely very small.

Read more about capture methods


References
ICCAT, 2012. Atlantic albacore executive summary report 2012-13. Available at http://www.iccat.int/Documents/SCRS/ExecSum/ALB_EN.pdf [Accessed Dec 2012].
International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, 2011. Albacore: North Atlantic Ocean. Available at http://iss-foundation.org/science/status-of-the-stocks/ [Accessed Dec 2012].
IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. . [Accessed December 2012]

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