Fisheries and Resources Monitoring System

Southern Bluefin tuna - Global
Marine Resource  Fact Sheet
Stock status report 2020
Southern Bluefin tuna - Global
Fact Sheet Citation  
Owned byCommission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) – More
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FAO Names: en - Southern bluefin tuna, fr - Thon rouge du Sud, es - Atún rojo del Sur
Geographic extent of Southern Bluefin tuna - Global
Main Descriptors
Considered a single stock: Yes        Management unit: Yes
Reference year: 2019
Biological State and Trend
State & Trend Descriptors
Exploitation rateModerate (Below Fmsy)Moderate fishing mortality
Abundance levelLow abundanceLow abundance
FAO Categories
Exploitation stateOverexploited

The 2020 stock assessment suggested that the SBT TRO is at 20% of its initial level and remains below the target and the level that could produce maximum sustainable yield. However, there has been improvements in the stock condition since the 2011 stock assessment, which indicated the stock in 2011 was at 5.5% of initial TRO, and the 2017 stock assessment, which indicated the stock in 2017 was at 13% of initial TRO.

Habitat and Biology
Depth zone: Unspecified.   Horizontal distribution: Neritic; Oceanic.   Vertical distribution: Pelagic.  

Southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii) are found in the southern hemisphere, mainly in waters between 30° and 50° S, but only rarely in the eastern Pacific.  The only known spawning area is in the Indian Ocean, south-east of Java, Indonesia.  Spawning takes place from September to April in warm waters south of Java and juvenile SBT migrate south down the west coast of Australia.  During the summer months (December-April), they tend to congregate near the surface in the coastal waters off the southern coast of Australia and spend their winters in deeper, temperate oceanic waters.  Results from recaptured conventional and archival tags show that young SBT migrate seasonally between the south coast of Australia and the central Indian Ocean.  After age 5 SBT are seldom found in nearshore surface waters, and their distribution extends over the southern circumpolar area throughout the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

SBT can attain a length of over 2m and a weight of over 200kg.  Direct ageing using otoliths indicates that a significant number of fish larger than 160cm are older than 25 years, and the maximum age obtained from otolith readings has been 42 years.  Analysis of tag returns and otoliths indicate that, in comparison with the 1960s, growth rate has increased since about 1980 as the stock has been reduced.  There is some uncertainty about the size and age when SBT mature, but available data indicate that SBT do not mature younger than 8 years (155cm fork length), and perhaps as old as 15 years.  SBT exhibit age-specific natural mortality, with M being higher for young fish and lower for old fish, increasing again prior to senescence.

Given that SBT have only one known spawning ground, and that no morphological differences have been found between fish from different areas, SBT are considered to constitute a single stock for management purposes.

Geographical Distribution
Jurisdictional distribution: Highly migratory

Southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii) are found in the southern hemisphere, mainly in waters between 30° and 50° S, but only rarely in the eastern Pacific.
Water Area Overview
Geo References
Resource Structure
Considered a single stock: Yes


Reported catches of SBT up to the end of 2019 are shown in Figures 1 - 3. Note that a 2006 review of SBT data indicated that there may have been substantial under-reporting of SBT catches and surface fishery bias in the previous 10 - 20 year period, and there is currently substantial uncertainty regarding the true levels of total SBT catch over this period. The SBT stock has been exploited for more than 50 years, with total catches peaking at 81,750t in 1961 (Figures 1 - 3). Over the period 1952 - 2019, 77% of the reported catch was taken by longline and 23% using surface gears, primarily purse-seine and pole and line (Figure 1). The proportion of reported catch made by the surface fishery peaked at 50% in 1982, dropped to 11-12 % in 1992 and 1993 and increased again to average 34% since 1996 (Figure 1). The Japanese longline fishery (taking a wide age range of fish) recorded its peak catch of 77,927t in 1961 and the Australian surface fishery catches of young fish peaked at 21,501t in 1982 (Figure 3). New Zealand, the Fishing Entity of Taiwan and Indonesia have also exploited southern bluefin tuna since the 1970s - 1980s, and Korea started a fishery in 1991.


Figure 1 Reported southern bluefin tuna catches by fishing gear, 1952 to 2019. Note: a 2006 review of SBT data indicated that catches over the preceding 10 to 20 years may have been substantially under-reported
Figure 2 Reported southern bluefin tuna catches by ocean, 1952 to 2019. Note: a 2006 review of SBT data indicated that catches over the preceding 10 to 20 years may have been substantially under-reported
Figure 3 Reported southern bluefin tuna catches by flag, 1952 to 2019. Note: a 2006 review of SBT data indicated that catches over the preceding 10 to 20 years may have been substantially under-reported
Figure 4 Geographical distribution of average annual reported southern bluefin tuna catches (t) by CCSBT members and cooperating non-members over the periods 1971-1980, 1981-1990, 1991-2000, 2001-2010 and 2011-2019 per 5° block. The area marked with a star is an area of significant catch in the breeding ground. Block catches averaging less than 0.25 tons per year are not shown. Note: This figure may be affected by past anomalies in catch


On average, 78.5% of the SBT catch has been made in the Indian Ocean, 16.7% in the Pacific Ocean and 4.8% in the Atlantic Ocean (Figure 2). The reported Atlantic Ocean catch has varied widely between about 18t and 8,200t since 1968 (Figure 2), averaging 1292t over the past two decades. This variation in catch reflects shifts in longline effort between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Fishing in the Atlantic occurs primarily off the southern tip of South Africa (Figure 4). Since 1968, the reported Indian Ocean catch has declined from about 45,000t to less than 10,000t, averaging 18,263t, and the reported Pacific Ocean catch has ranged from about 800t to 19,000t, averaging 5,015t over the same period (although SBT data analyses indicate that these catches may be under-estimated).



Since 2017, CCSBT has measured reproductive capacity as Total Reproductive Output (TRO) rather than SSB. The 2020 stock assessment suggested that the SBT TRO is at 20% of its initial biomass as well as below the level that could produce maximum sustainable yield. However, there have been improvements since the 2011 stock assessment, which indicated the stock in 2011 was at 5.5% of initial B10+ (the biomass of fish aged ten and older, used as a proxy for SSB prior to adoption of TRO), and the 2017 stock assessment, which indicated the stock was at 13% of initial TRO in 2017.

A review of indicators in 2020 suggested that recruitment for the most recent year may have been lower than in recent years but that recruitment levels still remain above historical means. There are some consistent positive trends in the age-based longline CPUE estimates across a number of fleets. In 2019, for the first time, the ESC noted an increased TRO as evidenced by a significant increase in the close-kin mark recapture (CKMR) empirical index.

Overall Assessment Results
Assessment Indicator
Type: Others


Maximum Sustainable Yield33,207 t (31,471-34,564 )
Reported (2019) Catch16,843t
Current (2020) biomass (B10+)204,596 t (184,272-231,681t)

Current Depletion (current relative to initial)




0.20 (0.16–0.24)

0.17 (0.14–0.1321)

TRO (2020) Relative to TROmsy

0.69 (0.49–1.03)

Fishing Mortality (2019) Relative to Fmsy0.52 (0.37–0.73)
Current Management MeasuresEffective Catch Limit for Members and Cooperating Non-Members: 17,647t per year for the years 2018-2020
Scientific Advice


Based on the results of the MP operation for 2018-20 TAC in 2016 and the outcome of reviews of exceptional circumstances at its 2017, 2018 and 2019 meetings, the ESC recommended that there is no need to revise the EC’s 2016 TAC decision regarding the TACs for 2018-20. The recommended annual TAC for 2018-20 was 17,647t.

Based on the new MP adopted in 2019 and implemented in 2020, and the outcome of reviews of exceptional circumstances at its 2020 meeting, the ESC recommended that there is no need to revise the current TAC. The ESC-recommended annual TAC for 2021-2023 is 17,647t.

Management unit: Yes


Total Allowable Catch (TAC)

The primary conservation measure for management of the southern bluefin tuna stock is the TAC.

At its eighteenth annual meeting in 2011, the CCSBT agreed that a Management Procedure (MP) would be used to guide the setting of the SBT global total allowable catch (TAC) to ensure that the SBT spawning stock biomass achieves the CCSBT’s rebuilding targets.

Under the adopted MPs, the TAC is set in three year periods. The TAC for 2014 was 12,449 tonnes, the TAC for 2015 to 2017 was 14,647 tonnes, the TAC for 2018 to 2020 was 17,647 tonnes and the TAC for 2021 to 2023 is also 17,647 tonnes.

The effective catch limits for Members and Cooperating Non-Members of the CCSBT from 2015 to 2021 is summarised below. In addition, some flexibility is provided to Members for limited carry-forward of unfished allocations between quota years. This flexibility is described in the Resolution on Limited Carry-forward of Unfished Annual Total Allowable Catch of Southern Bluefin Tuna.

Current Allocations to Members

















Republic of Korea





Fishing Entity of Taiwan





New Zealand










South Africa





European Union




*1 These figures reflect the voluntary transfers of 21t that Japan is providing to Indonesia and 27t that Japan is providing to South Africa for the 2018 to 2020 quota block. The starting point for Japan, Indonesia and South Africa in considering the allocation from 2021 will be 6165t, 1002t, and 423t respectively.

*2 These figures reflect: (1) voluntary transfers of 21t that Japan is providing to Indonesia and 27t that Japan is providing to South Africa for the 2021 to 2023 quota block; (2) a voluntary transfer of 7t that Australia is providing to Indonesia for the 2021 to 2023 quota block; and (3) a special temporary allowance of 80t to Indonesia for 2021.

Current Allocations to Cooperating Non-Members









*2 Ceased 12 October 2017.

More complete information on the total catch and its allocation is provided in paragraphs 60 to 92 of the CCSBT 27 Report.

Monitoring, Control and Surveillance

The CCSBT has adopted a Compliance Plan that supports its Strategic Plan and provides a framework for the CCSBT, Members and Cooperating Non-Members to improve compliance, and over time, achieve full compliance with CCSBT’s conservation and management measures. The Compliance Plan also includes a three-year action plan to address priority compliance risks. The action plan will be reviewed, and confirmed or updated every year. The action plan is therefore a ‘rolling’ document and over time its emphasis will change.

The CCSBT has also adopted three Compliance Policy Guidelines, these being:

Minimum performance requirements to meet CCSBT Obligations (Updated October 2018);

Corrective actions policy (Updated October 2018); 

MCS information collection and sharing (Updated October 2019); and

• Guideline on principles for action and steps to be taken in relation to extraordinary circumstances (Adopted October 2020)


In addition, the CCSBT has implemented a Quality Assurance Review (QAR) program to provide independent reviews to help Members identify how well their management systems function with respect to their CCSBT obligations and to provide recommendations on areas where improvement is needed. It is further intended that QARs will:

• Benefit the reviewed Member by giving them confidence in the integrity and robustness of their own monitoring and reporting systems;

• Promote confidence among all Members as to the quality of individual Members’ performance reporting; and

• Further demonstrate the credibility and international reputation of the CCSBT as a responsible Regional Fisheries Management Organisation.

The following QARs have been conducted or are in progress:




Type of QAR



Australia, Korea, Japan, New Zealand

Desktop Review



Fishing Entity of Taiwan

Desktop Review



Australia, Indonesia

On-Site Review




On-Site Review



Korea, New Zealand

On-Site Review



Fishing Entity of Taiwan

On-Site Review



South Africa

On-Site Review

Individual MCS measures that have been established by the CCSBT include:

• Catch Documentation Scheme

The CCSBT Catch Documentation Scheme (CDS) came into effect on 1 January 2010 and replaced the Statistical Document Programme (Trade Information Scheme) which operated from 1 June 2000. The CDS provides for tracking and validation of legitimate SBT product flow from catch to the point of first sale on domestic or export markets. As part of the CDS, all transhipments, landings of domestic product, exports, imports and re-exports of SBT must be accompanied by the appropriate CCSBT CDS Document(s), which include a Catch Monitoring Form and possibly a Re-Export/Export After Landing of Domestic Product Form. Similarly, transfers of SBT into and between farms must be documented on either a Farm Stocking Form or a Farm Transfer Form as appropriate. In addition, each whole SBT that is transhipped, landed as domestic product, exported, imported or re-exported must have a uniquely numbered tag attached to it and the tag numbers of all SBT (together with other details) will be recorded on a Catch Tagging Form. Copies of all documents issued and received will be provided to the CCSBT Secretariat on a quarterly basis for compiling into an electronic database, analysis, identification of discrepancies, reconciliation and reporting.

Full details of the CCSBT CDS are available from the Resolution on the implementation of a CCSBT Catch Documentation Scheme (Updated October 2019).

• Monitoring of SBT Transhipments

The CCSBT program for monitoring transhipments at sea came into effect on 1 April 2009. The program was revised to include requirements for monitoring transhipments in port from 1 January 2015.

Transhipments at sea from tuna longline fishing vessels with freezing capacity (referred to as “LSTLVs”) include the following requirements:


  • Carrier vessels that receive SBT transhipments at sea from LSTLVs must be authorised to receive such transhipments; and
  • A CCSBT observer must be on board the carrier vessel during the transhipment.


The CCSBT transhipment program is harmonised and operated in conjunction with those of ICCAT and IOTC to avoid duplication of the same measures. ICCAT or IOTC observers on a transhipment vessel that is authorised to receive SBT are deemed to be CCSBT observers provided that the CCSBT standards are met.

Transhipments in port must be to an authorised carrier vessel (container vessels are exempted) at designated foreign ports and meet additional requirements including prior notification to Port State authorities, notification to Flag States, and transmission of the CCSBT transhipment declaration to the Port State, the Flag State and the CCSBT Secretariat.

Full details of the CCSBT transhipment program are available from the Resolution on establishing a Program for Transhipment by Large-Scale Fishing Vessels (Updated October 2017).

• Port State Measures

The CCSBT adopted a Resolution for a CCSBT Scheme for Minimum Standards for Inspections in Port in October 2015.  The Resolution entered into force on 1 January 2017 and was updated on October 2018.  The scheme applies to foreign fishing vessels, including carrier vessels other than container vessels. 

Under this scheme, a Member wishing to grant port access to foreign fishing/carrier vessels carrying SBT or fish products originating from SBT (not previously landed or transhipped at port) shall, amongst other things:


  • Designate a point of contact for the purposes of receiving notifications;
  • Designate ports to which foreign fishing vessels may request entry;
  • Ensure that there is sufficient capacity to conduct inspections in every designated port;
  • Require foreign fishing vessels seeking to use its ports for the purpose of landing and/or transhipment to provide certain required minimum information with a least 72 hours prior notification; and
  • Inspect at least 5% of foreign fishing vessel landing and transhipment operations in their designated ports each year.


• List of Approved Vessels and Farms

The CCSBT has established records for:

Authorised SBT vessels;

Authorised SBT carrier vessels; and

Authorised SBT farms.

Members and Cooperating Non-Members of the CCSBT will not allow the landing or trade etc. of SBT caught by fishing vessels and farms, or transhipped to carrier vessels that are not on these lists.

• List of Vessels Presumed to have carried out IUU Fishing Activities for SBT

The CCSBT has adopted a Resolution on Establishing a List of Vessels Presumed to have Carried Out Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Activities For Southern Bluefin Tuna (Updated October 2019).

At each annual meeting, there is an opportunity for the CCSBT to identify vessels which have engaged in fishing activities for SBT in a manner which has undermined the effectiveness of the Convention and the CCSBT measures in force. If vessels are included on the CCSBT IUU Vessel List then it will be published on this web site and circulated to appropriate regional fisheries organisations.

Currently, no vessels are listed on the CCSBT IUU Vessel List.

• Vessel Monitoring System

The CCSBT Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) came into effect immediately after the Fifteenth Annual Meeting of the Commission, on 17 October 2008. It requires CCSBT Members and Cooperating Non-Members to adopt and implement satellite-linked VMS for vessels fishing for SBT that complies with the IOTC, WCPFC, CCAMLR, or ICCAT VMS requirements according to the respective Convention Area in which the SBT fishing is being conducted. For fishing outside of these areas, the IOTC VMS requirements must be followed.

Full details of the CCSBT VMS are available from the Resolution on the development and implementation of a Vessel Monitoring System and the Resolution on establishing the CCSBT Vessel Monitoring System.

• Action Plan

In the past, significant and increasing volumes of SBT were being taken by flag of convenience vessels. This was of major concern to the CCSBT where the stock needs to be carefully managed, and where the actions of these vessels was undermining the conservation measures already being taken by Members. The Commission  sought the cooperation of these countries in supporting its management and conservation measures. They were also advised that if cooperation was not forthcoming, the Commission would consider measures, including trade restrictive measures, to be taken against them in accordance with the Action Plan Resolution adopted in March 2000.

Source of information
Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT). “Report of the Twenty Fifth Meeting of the CCSBT Scientific Committee.” 2020-09-7 . Click to open
Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT). “Report of the Twenty Seventh Annual Meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna.” 2020-10-17 . Click to open
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