|Albacore - Indian Ocean, 2007|
|Marine Resource Fact Sheet|
|Albacore - Indian Ocean, 2007|
|FAO Names : en - Albacore, fr - Germon, es - Atún blanco, ru - Тунец длинноперый|
|Considered a single stock: Yes
Spatial Scale: Regional|
Habitat and Biology
Depth zone: Unspecified. Horizontal distribution: Oceanic. Vertical distribution: Pelagic.
Albacore is a highly migratory species and individuals swim large distances during their lifetime. It can do this because it is capable of thermoregulation, has a high metabolic rate, and advanced cardiovascular and blood/gas exchange systems. Pre-adults (2-5 year old albacore) appear to be more migratory than adults. In the Pacific Ocean, the migration, distribution availability, and vulnerability of albacore are strongly influenced by oceanographic conditions, especially oceanic fronts. It has been observed on all albacore stocks that juveniles concentrate in cold temperate areas (for instance in a range of sea-surface temperatures between 15 and 18°C), and this has been confirmed in the Indian Ocean where albacore tuna are more abundant north of the subtropical convergence (an area where these juvenile were heavily fished by driftnet fisheries during the late 1980‘s). It appears that juvenile albacore show a continuous geographical distribution in the Atlantic and Indian oceans in the north edge of the subtropical convergence. Albacore may move across the jurisdictional boundary between ICCAT and IOTC.
The maximum age reported for Indian Ocean albacore is eight years. However, this may be an underestimate as albacore have been reported live to at least 10 years in the Pacific Ocean.
Little is known about the reproductive biology of albacore in the Indian Ocean but it appears, based on biological studies and on fishery data, that the main spawning grounds are located east of between 15° and 25°S during the 4th and 1st quarters of each year. In the Pacific Ocean, albacore grow relatively slowly (compared to skipjack and yellowfin) and become sexually mature at about 5-6 years old. Like other tunas, adult albacore spawn in warm waters (SST>25°C). It is likely that the adult Indian Ocean albacore tunas do yearly circular counter-clockwise migrations following the surface currents of the south tropical gyre between their tropical spawning and southern feeding zones. In the Atlantic Ocean, large numbers of juvenile albacore are caught by the South African pole-and-line fishery (catching about 10.000 t yearly) and it has been hypothesized that these juveniles may be taken from a mixture of fish born in the Atlantic (north east of Brazil) and from the Indian Ocean.
Overall, the biology of albacore stock in the Indian Ocean is not well known and there is relatively little new information on albacore stocks.
Jurisdictional distribution: Highly migratory
Considered a single stock: Yes
Albacore (Thunnus alalunga
) is a temperate tuna living mainly in the mid oceanic gyres of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans. Indian Ocean albacore is distributed from 5°N to 40°S. In the Pacific and Atlantic oceans there is a clear separation of southern and northern stocks associated with the oceanic gyres that are typical of these areas. In the Indian Ocean, there is probably only one southern stock because there is no northern gyre.
Albacore are caught almost exclusively under drifting longlines (98 %), and between 20° and 40°S (Figure 1), with remaining catches recorded under purse seines and other gears.
A fleet using drifting gillnets targeting juvenile albacore operated in the southern Indian Ocean (30° to 40° South) between 1985 and 1992 harvesting important amounts of this species. This fleet, from , , ceased fishing with this gear in 1992 due to a worldwide ban on the use of drifting gillnets. Albacore is currently both a target species and a bycatch of industrial longline fisheries and a bycatch of other fisheries.
The catches of albacore increased rapidly during the first years of the fishery, remaining relatively stable until the mid-1980s, except for some very high catches recorded in 1973, 1974 and 1982 (Figure 2). The catches increased markedly during the 1990‘s due to the use of drifting gillnets, with total catches reaching around 30,000 t. Catches have steadily increased since 1993, after the drop recorded in 1992 and 1993 as a consequence of the end. Catches between 1998 and 2001 were relatively high (ranging from 37,700 t to 40,600 t). By contrast, the average annual catch for the period from 2004 to 2008 was 27,900 t. Longliners from and , have been operating in the Indian Ocean since the early 1950s and they have been the major fishers for albacore since then. While the Japanese albacore catch ranged from 8,000 t to 18,000 t in the period 1959 to 1969, in 1972 catches rapidly decreased to around 1,000 t due to changing the target species mainly to southern bluefin and bigeye tuna, then ranged between 200 t to 2,500 t as albacore became a bycatch fishery. In recent years the Japanese albacore catch has been around 2,000 to 6,000 t. By contrast, catches by Taiwanese longliners increased steadily from the 1950‘s to average around 10,000 t by the mid-1970s. Between 1998 and 2002 catches ranged between 21,500 t to 26,900 t, equating to just over 60 % of the total Indian Ocean albacore catch. Since 2003 the albacore catches by Taiwanese longliners have been less that 16,900 t. The catches of albacore by longliners from the Republic of Korea, recorded since 1965, have never been above 10,000 t. Important albacore catches of around 3,000 t to 5,000 t have been recorded in recent years for a fleet of fresh-tuna longliners operating in Indonesia.Large sized albacore are also taken seasonally in certain areas, most often in free-swimming schools, by the purse seine fishery. A feature of Indian Ocean albacore fisheries is that it is the only ocean where juvenile albacore are rarely targeted by fisheries. In the Atlantic and Pacific oceans surface fisheries often actively target small albacore to the extent that juveniles contribute to the majority of albacore catches. This, however, does not discount the possibility that the juvenile albacore from the Indian Ocean are not being subjected to significant levels of fishing pressure as the small fish targeted off the west coast of may have migrated to the Atlantic Ocean from the Indian Ocean.
The mean prices obtained for albacore tuna are lower than those for bigeye, yellowfin and swordfish and the Taiwanese longliners operating in the albacore fishery are the oldest, less efficient vessels of the fleet, using regular longlines. Given the lower profitability of the albacore longline fishery compared to the fisheries for other tuna species, there is likely to be very little incentive for an increase in fishing effort on this species in the immediate future.
|Figure 1 Average annual albacore catches by gear during the periods 1990-1999 and 2000-2008. LL = longline, PS = purse seine, SU = pole and line. Data as of October 2008. |
|Figure 2 Annual of catches albacore (t x 1000) by gear from 1959 to 2008. Data as of October 2009.|
In 2008, an age structured production model was used to examine the effect of the interaction between age at selection by the fishery and age-at-maturity and how this might affect stock status.
The total catch biomass (1950- 2007) and Taiwanese long-line CPUE data (1980-2006) was used to estimate the parameters of the model. Two scenarios were examined:
- Case 1 where selection begins one age-class before maturation i.e selectivity is at age 4 and maturity is at age 5;
- Case 2 where selection follows the maturity ogive i.e. selectivity is at age 5 and maturity is at age 5, but spawning occurs before fishing
- For both scenarios there was no outstanding indications that the stock was over-fished (B2007/BMSY >1), or that overfishing is occurring (hCURRENT < hMSY); however, there were considerable differences in the estimates of other stock parameters (the current levels of exploitation rate and current relative to MSY levels). It appears that the interaction of age-at-maturity and age-at-selection has a major influence on the results. In scenario 1 fish are available to the fishery a little earlier than they mature (it does not fully select immature fish but assumes the fishery begins to take fish before they can effectively spawn). For scenario 2 the ages at selection and maturation are the same and, given that the population model assumes that fishing occurs post-spawning, all fish are allowed to spawn at least once before they are exploited. This makes a large difference to the estimated MSY levels. For the values of steepness here (in fact even for lower values) if the fish are permitted to spawn at least once before being exploited then the model estimates that population can permanently sustain very high levels of exploitation.
- For scenario 1, MSY was estimated to be 28,260 t (95% CI = 25,353t -31,333 t) and for scenario 2, MSY was estimated to be 34,415 t (28,414t -38,037 t). Both scenarios indicated that annual catches at the historically high level experienced over the period 1998 to 2001 (range 35,000 to 43,000 t, average 38,300 t) would likely exceed MSY levels.
- There appears to be a well defined spatial nature to the dynamics of albacore, with relatively few juvenile and immature fish being available to the fishery compared to mature fish. With more information on the spawning condition of fish by location, growth and maturity, as well as improvements to the current indices of abundance and how to interpret the catch data, a well defined spatial assessment model for albacore may be possible in the future
Based on the preliminary analyses undertaken in 2008 there are no indications that that the albacore stock is overfished (B2007/BMSY >1) and overfishing is currently likely not occurring for the scenarios envisaged. Point estimates of MSY ranged from 28,260 t to 34,415 t. This indicated, that continuous annual catches at a level approaching 38,000 t (equivalent to the historically high level of catch experienced over the period 1998 to 2001) may not be sustainable in the long term.
Albacore catches have been around 26,000 t annually over the past five years (2003-2007) and this level is only slightly higher than the historical average annual catch taken for the past 50 years (23,000 t). Other fisheries-based indicators show considerable stability over long periods. The mean weight of albacore in the catches has remained relatively stable over a period of more than 50 years. Furthermore, the average weight of albacore in the Indian Ocean is higher than that reported in the other oceans and is likely to result in a higher yield per recruit. The catch rates of albacore have also been stable over the past 20 years.
Because of the low value of albacore and, as a likely result, low profitability of the albacore longline fishery compared to the fisheries for other tuna species, there is likely to be very little incentive for an increase in fishing effort on this species in the immediate future.
On balance of the information available, albacore is considered to be not overfished and overfishing is not occurring.
The Scientific Committee acknowledges the preliminary nature of the albacore tuna assessment in 2008, but on balance of the available stock status information and stable effort considers that the status of the stock of albacore is not likely to change markedly over the next 2-3 years and if the price of albacore remains low compared to other tuna species, no immediate action should be required on the part of the Commission. The Scientific Committee recommend that a new albacore tuna assessment be presented to the Scientific Committee at the latest in 2010.
Biological State and Trend
Exploitation state: Moderately exploitedExploitation rate: Moderate fishing mortality
Abundance level: Intermediate abundance
Stock size and fishing pressure are considered to be within acceptable limits. Catches, mean weight and catch rates of albacore have been stable for over 20 years.
Source of information
IOTC-CTOI . Indian Ocean Tuna Commission - Commission des Thons de l'Océan Indien. “Report of the Twelfth Session of the Scientific Committee of the IOTC. IOTC-2009-SC-R[E]” 2009 http://www.iotc.org/files/proceedings/2009/sc/IOTC-2009-SC-R%5BE%5D.pdf