In total 2015 tuna catch, 76% came from stocks at healthy levels; most bluefin tuna stocks continue to be overfished
Washington, DC -- February 22, 2017
Of the total tuna catch in 2015, 76% came from stocks at “healthy” levels, a decrease of 1% from 2014, according to a February 2017 International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) Status of the Stocks report.
The current percentage-from-healthy-stocks figure, while in need of improvement, has stabilized recently following several years of decline: In 2011, 94% of the catch came from healthy stocks, followed by 86% in 2012, and 87% in 2013.
There were no dramatic changes in tuna stock status since the previous November 2016 Status report covering 2014 data; the updated report reflects new data made available at late 2016 tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) meetings. Skipjack tuna stocks — at healthy levels in all ocean regions — once again constituted more than one-half of the 2015 total catch.
Yet RFMO data spurs continuing concern about commercial tuna abundance and/or fishing mortality worldwide, particularly for certain bluefin and bigeye stocks.
Updated several times per year, Status of the Stocks assigns color ratings (green, yellow or orange) on stock heath, stock management, and ecosystem impact. The report ranks the 23 stocks of major commercial tunas around the world using a consistent methodology.
In the February 2017 report, Indian Ocean yellowfin, Pacific Ocean bluefin, Western and Central Pacific Ocean bigeye, and Atlantic Ocean bigeye score poorly for both abundance and fishing mortality. Most bluefin stocks and one albacore stock are overfished, but combined they are a relatively small fraction of the total catch.
All ocean regions have stocks with mixed scores for abundance and fishing mortality. Inadequate bycatch monitoring and/or bycatch mitigation measures — represented by the “Environmental Impact” scores — remain a concern in many tuna fisheries studied, most acutely in Mediterranean and Indian Ocean albacore fisheries.
Key Findings in Updated Report
Other notable statistics and findings include:
- Total catch: In 2015, the total major commercial tuna catch was 4.8 million tonnes, a 4% decrease from 2014. Fifty-eight percent was skipjack tuna, followed by yellowfin (28%), bigeye (8%) and albacore (4%). Bluefin tunas accounted for only 1% of the global catch. These percentages changed only slightly from the Nov. 2016 reporting period.
- Abundance or “spawning biomass” levels: Globally, 52% of the stocks are at a healthy level of abundance, 31% are overfished, and 17% are at an intermediate level.
- Stocks receiving orange scores, indicating overfishing or overfished status, include Mediterranean albacore, Western Pacific bigeye, Atlantic Ocean bigeye, Pacific Ocean bluefin, Western Atlantic Ocean bluefin, Southern Hemisphere Southern bluefin, and Indian Ocean yellowfin.
- Fishing mortality levels: 57% of the stocks are experiencing a low fishing mortality rate, 17% are experiencing overfishing, and 26% have a high fishing mortality that is being managed adequately.
- Stocks receiving orange scores, indicating overfishing or overfished status, include Western Pacific Ocean bigeye, Atlantic Ocean bigeye, Pacific Ocean bluefin, and Indian Ocean yellowfin.
- Largest catches by stock: The three largest catches in tonnes were Western Pacific Ocean skipjack, Western Pacific Ocean yellowfin, and Indian Ocean yellowfin.
- Tuna production by ocean: Most (54%) of the world’s tuna is harvested from the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, followed by the Indian Ocean (19%), Eastern Pacific Ocean (13%), and Atlantic Ocean (10%).
- Tuna production by fishing gear: 64% of the catch is made by purse seining, followed by longline (12%), pole-and-line (9%), gillnets (4%) and miscellaneous gears (11%).
The Feb. 2017 report also provides these RFMO updates:
- IATTC catch data and management
- WCPFC management
- Pacific-Wide catch data (ALB) and management
- ICCAT management
- IOTC catch data and stock status
About the Report
There are 23 stocks of major commercial tuna species worldwide – 6 albacore, 4 bigeye, 4 bluefin, 5 skipjack and 4 yellowfin stocks. The Status of the Stocks summarizes the results of the most recent scientific assessments of these stocks, as well as the current management measures adopted by the RFMOs. In addition, this report ranks the status and management of the 23 stocks using a consistent methodology based on three factors: Abundance, Exploitation/Management (fishing mortality) and Environmental Impact (bycatch).
ISSF produces two reports annually that seek to provide clarity about where we stand – and how much more needs to be done – to ensure the long-term sustainability of tuna stocks: the Status of the Stocks provides a comprehensive analysis of tuna stocks by species, and the Evaluation of the Sustainability of Global Tuna Stocks Relative to Marine Stewardship Council Criteria provides a review of the health of tuna fisheries by region.
Together, these tools help to define the continuous improvement achieved, as well as the areas and issues that require more attention. Access the newly updated ISSF stock status ratings here.
The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) is a global coalition of scientists, the tuna industry and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) — the world’s leading conservation organization — promoting science-based initiatives for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks, reducing bycatch and promoting ecosystem health. To learn more, visit https://iss-foundation.org/.