Fisheries and Resources Monitoring System

World Global Tuna Fisheries
Fishery  Fact Sheet
Review of the state of world marine fishery resources 2009
World Global Tuna Fisheries
Fact Sheet Citation  
Owned byFood and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – more>>

Location of World Global Tuna Fisheries

Geographic reference:  World
Spatial Scale: Global
Reference year: 2009
Approach: Fishery Resource

Harvested Resource
Fishery Area: Atlantic, Northwest; Atlantic, Northeast; Atlantic, Western Central; Atlantic, Eastern Central;

Target Species: Albacore; Bigeye tuna; Skipjack tuna …  

Fishery Indicators

Fisheries: Development and expansion

Since the nineteenth century (and even from more ancient times), traditional tunafishing has been carried out in various parts in the world. Those fisheries were local andgenerally near the coasts. In the Atlantic, they included purse seining for bluefin tunaoff Norway, baitboat and trolling for albacore in the Bay of Biscay, trap fishing near theStrait of Gibraltar and North African coast, swordfish fishing in the northwest Atlanticand in the Mediterranean, bigeye and skipjack fishing near islands, and artisanal fishingalong the African coasts. In the Pacific, various artisanal fisheries operated near islandsin the tropical waters. Off South America, coastal fisheries operated using baitboats andsmall seines. In the Indian Ocean, skipjack fishing off India, Maldives Sri and Lankawas carried out. Off Australia, longline fishing was carried out for southern bluefintuna. Many other artisanal fisheries for tuna-like fishes existed in tropical or subtropicalareas all over the world.

As a result of increasing demand for canned tuna, industrialized fisheries startedin the 1940s and 1950s. They included Japanese longline and baitboat fishing in thePacific, and United States baitboat fishing off California along the Mexican coasts.The traditional fisheries described above continued at the same time. After the SecondWorld War, the fishing areas for the Japanese tuna fishery were limited to its coast untilthe late 1940s or early 1950s. However, thereafter, the fisheries, particularly the longlinefisheries, expanded their fishing area very rapidly. In late 1950s, Japanese fishing vesselsreached the Atlantic Ocean. Also in the late 1950s, some European pole-and-line fishingstarted off the African coasts from local harbours.

In the 1960s, Spanish and French boats with pole and line and purse seines startedtuna fishing off West Africa. In addition, Japanese longliners expanded their fishing areaall over the world, mostly fishing albacore and yellowfin for canning. In the mid-1960s, the Republic of Korea and Taiwan Province of China started large-scale longline fishingto export tuna for canning, learning the techniques from Japan.

United States pole-and-line fishing off Central and South America was almostcompletely replaced by purse seiners in the 1960s. Moreover, purse seining of tuna withdolphin was developed in the eastern Pacific.

In the 1970s, purse seine fisheries of European countries developed quickly in theeastern tropical Atlantic. They attained the first peak of their catches of yellowfin andskipjack. In addition, the purse seine fishery developed further in the east tropical Pacific.A strict regulation for the reduction of mortality of dolphins caught in association withtuna was also implemented in this area. Consequently, the United States-flagged vesselsstarted changing their flags to those of Central and South American countries. Somefishing effort also shifted to the central and western Pacific, where no dolphin fishingoccurred.

With the development of extremely cold storage, some longliners gradually changedtheir target from yellowfin (for canning) to bigeye (for sashimi). This shift was first seenamong Japanese longliners, but it gradually expanded to the fleets from the Republic ofKorea and Taiwan Province of China. To catch bigeye, whose habitat is much deeperthan that of tropical tunas, longlines were set deeper and deeper. This change in fishingstrategy implied changes in fishing areas, leading to modifications in target and bycatchspecies.

In the 1980s, a new purse seine fishery started in the western Indian Ocean. ManyFrench seiners from the eastern Atlantic moved into this fishery. In the Pacific Ocean,the purse seine fishery expanded its fishing area, particularly in the south, central andwestern Pacific. Purse-seine fishing efficiency increased with modern equipment suchas bird radar and the use of helicopters. In the 1980s, many new countries began largescaleindustrial fishing, mostly with purse seines (e.g. Mexico, Venezuela [BolivarianRepublic of] and Brazil). Small-scale longline fishing operations by coastal countries invarious areas (e.g. Mediterranean countries, the Philippines and Indonesia) also startedin the 1980s. The Japanese longline fleet started to reduce its size in that decade. Atthe same time, longliners from Taiwan Province of China and others flying flags ofconvenience increased rapidly.

Particularly in the 1980s, management regulatory measures for tuna fisheries wereintroduced by tuna regional fisheries management organizations (t-RFMOs). Theseregulations also affected fishing patterns and country shares of catches. In the 1990s,more management measures were introduced. With insufficient MCS, this resultedin an increase in IUU fishing. This became a major problem for proper managementof fish resources. In general, tuna-fishing capacity extensively increased in the 1990s.Increases in the catches sometimes caused oversupply to the market, particularly forskipjack because of large purse-seine catches.

Starting in the 1980s and increasingly in the 1990s, many coastal States started newtuna fishing ventures using arrangements with the existing tuna-fishing nations. Theseventures included the chartering of vessels and other arrangements of association. Thispractice occurred in all oceans. Some of these chartered vessels changed flags to those ofcoastal States and, possibly, this tendency may intensify in the near future. This is oneof the reasons for declines in fishing effort by traditional longline fishing countries.Purse seiners started fishing around fish aggregating devices (FADs) in the Atlanticin the late 1980s or early 1990s, and this method expanded to the Indian and PacificOceans. The FAD fishing is less selective for fish species and sizes. The fishing efficiency,sizes of fish taken, species composition and incidental catches changed drastically withthe adoption of this new practice.

Tuna fattening started in the 1990s. This new industry resulted in: (i) an increasingdemand for bluefin of specific sizes (relatively small) suitable for growing on; and(ii) better prices being paid for such fish to the fishers. Through the fattening process,the particularly small bluefin (or ones with little fat) taken by purse seiners that used tobe sold only for canning can now be used for the sashimi market after their fattening. Todate, the three species of bluefin tuna are the main species used in farming, but farmingis extending to bigeye and yellowfin tuna. Bluefin farming is expanding, it now includesAustralia, Japan, Mexico and several Mediterranean countries (particularly Croatia,Malta, Spain and Turkey).

Currently, on the industrial scale, tuna and tuna-like species are mainly caught withpurse-seine, longline and, to a less extent, pole-and-line over wide areas in oceans(Figure C1.1; Carocci and Majkowski, 1996, 1998, 2011a, 2011b). Other gear types usedinclude troll lines, handlines, driftnets, traps and harpoons.

The industrial tuna fisheries are very dynamic, and fleets, especially distant-waterfishing fleets, can react very quickly to changes in stock sizes or market conditions. Forexample, in the early 1980s, many French and Spanish purse seiners from the Atlanticmoved to the Indian Ocean, contributing to the doubling of catches there in the 1980s.Some of these vessels have now moved back to the Atlantic as a result of the piracyproblem in the Indian Ocean. Similarly, many United States purse seiners have movedfrom the eastern to the western Pacific.

The purse seine and pole-and-line are used to catch fish found close to the surface(e.g. skipjack and relatively small yellowfin, albacore and bluefin tunas). Longlines areused for tuna found at greater depths (e.g. large individuals of bluefin, bigeye, yellowfin,albacore and billfishes). Most purse seine and pole-and-line catches are canned. Withthe exception of those for albacore, longline catches are mainly sold on the sashimimarket to be consumed raw. The market has traditionally been in Japan, but it nowextends also to many other countries. To some extent, catches are also sold on the freshand frozen market to be consumed in the form of steaks. The use of pole-and-line andlarge-scale longlining has been generally declining, while purse seining is increasinglyused. This has resulted in increased catches of skipjack, small-to-medium yellowfin andsmall bigeye, while catches of large yellowfin and the other principal market tunas haveremained relatively stable. Information on industrial tuna fisheries entirely or partiallyon the high seas is summarized in Table C1.1.

Small-scale longlining for high-quality fish for the sashimi market is increasinglybeing used by China, Taiwan Province of China and various developing countries. Thiscontributes to a general trend of rapidly increasing importance of developing coastalcountries (including island countries of the Indian and Pacific Oceans) in tuna fishing.This increasing importance of developing countries results from the purchase of purseseiners and from the intensification of artisanal fisheries. Catches from these fisheriesmay still be underestimated despite the fact that the rate of non-reporting of catches indeveloping countries is being reduced.

Further information on tuna fisheries, fish processing and trade can be found inMiyake et al. (2004, 2010).

Table C1.1 - Industrial tuna fisheries operating entirely or partially on the high seas, with an indication of some fishing countries



Major vessel flags

Target species

Northeast Pacific


Japan and Taiwan Province of China

Albacore, bigeye and swordfish


Canada and United States of America


Southeast Pacific


Chile and Spain


Eastern Pacific

Purse seine

Costa Rica, Columbia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Spain, Vanuatu, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) and United States of America

Skipjack, bigeye and yellowfin


Japan, Republic of Korea, United States of America and Taiwan Province of China

Albacore, bigeye and yellowfin

Western, Central and South Pacific


China, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Taiwan Province of China and Vanuatu

Albacore, bigeye, yellowfin, southern bluefin tuna, Pacific bluefin tuna, and swordfish

Pole and line


Skipjack, albacore and yellowfin,

Purse seine

Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Taiwan Province of China and United States of America

Skipjack, bigeye and yellowfin

Eastern Indian Ocean


Belize, China, Honduras, Indonesia, Japan, Panama, Republic of Korea and Taiwan Province of China

Albacore, bigeye, southern bluefin, swordfish and yellowfin


Purse seine

Indonesia, Japan and Liberia

Skipjack and yellowfin

Western and Central Indian Ocean


India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Maldives and Sri Lanka,

Skipjack and yellowfin


China, Belize, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Japan, Panama, Republic of Korea, Réunion, Seychelles, Taiwan Province of China and Thailand

Bigeye and yellowfin

Pole and line

Maldives and Sri Lanka

Skipjack and yellowfin

Purse seine

Belize, France, Japan, Netherlands Antilles (dissolved), Seychelles and Spain

Skipjack and yellowfin

Eastern Atlantic


Belize, China, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Panama, Philippines, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Taiwan Province of China and Spain

Albacore, bigeye, Atlantic bluefin, swordfish and yellowfin

Pole and line

France, Ghana, Namibia, Panama, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Senegal, South Africa and Spain

Albacore, bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin

Purse seine

Côte d'Ivoire, France, Ghana, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Senegal and Vanuatu

Bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin


France, Ireland and Spain


Western Atlantic


Brazil, Japan, Spain, Taiwan Province of China, United States of America, Uruguay and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)

Albacore, bigeye, Atlantic bluefin, swordfish and yellowfin

Pole and line

Brazil, Japan, Taiwan Province of China and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)


Purse seine

Brazil and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)

Skipjack and yellowfin

Western and Central Atlantic


China, Japan, Portugal, Spain, Taiwan Province of China and United States of America

Bigeye and Atlantic bluefin

Western Mediterranean (Tyrrhenian and Liguria Seas & Strait of Sicily)



Atlantic bluefin and swordfish


Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Japan, Libya, Spain and Taiwan Province of China

Atlantic bluefin and swordfish

Purse seine

Algeria, France, Italy, Spain and Tunisia

Atlantic bluefin


Morocco and Spain

Atlantic bluefin

Central Mediterranean (Adriatic & Ionian Seas)

Purse seine

Croatia and Italy

Atlantic bluefin and swordfish


Cyprus and Italy

Atlantic bluefin, albacore and swordfish

Eastern Mediterranean (Aegean & Marmara Seas)



Atlantic bluefin and swordfish

Purse seine


Bonito and Atlantic bluefin

Harvested Resource
The catch profiles in this fact sheet are based onFAO general catch statistics. These include tuna and tuna-like species, but they are notexclusively for them. The t-RFMOs and tuna-fishing countries may have more detailedand possibly more accurate or up-to-date statistics specifically for tuna (see their Websites given in the section on resource status of the source document). On the global scale, thesetuna-specific statistics of t-RFMOs have also been collated and made available by FAO(Carocci and Majkowski, 2011b).

Explore more on the spatial distribution of tuna catches by fishing gears over last 60 years:

Historical evolution
The global annual catch of tuna and tuna-like species reached about 6.5 million tonnesin 2009. It has shown an increasing trend since 1950, when it was less than 1 milliontonnes, The global production of the principal market tunas increased relatively steadilyfrom less than 0.5 million tonnes in the early 1950s to the maximum of about 4.4 million tonnes in 2005, decreasing and then, reaching nearly that level in 2009 (Figure C1.2,Table D19). Between 1970 and 1978, the catches of principal market tunas increasedsignificantly as a result of the expansion of fisheries in the eastern Atlantic and thedevelopment of new offshore fishing grounds in the eastern Pacific. Between 1978and 1984, many vessels moved to the western Pacific and the western Indian Ocean,developing new fisheries there.

Annual catches of tuna and tuna-likespecies cannot grow indefinitely (Figure C1.2,Table D19). In fact, they might already havestarted to stabilize in recent years. In particular,the principal market species may have peaked,given the recent declines in catches of bigeye,some bluefins and yellowfin. Skipjack catchesstill continue to increase and the other speciesare stabilizing. The total annual catch ofprincipal market tunas may even eventuallydecline if the management of their fisheries isnot successful.

Main species
Skipjack, which is used mostly for canning,accounts for the greatest proportion of theworld catches of tuna (Figure C1.2). Its catcheshave tended to increase over the entire period ofits exploitation. In 2009, the skipjack catch wasmore than 2.5 million tonnes (the highest onrecord), being more than half of the total catchof all principal market tuna landed. In the early1980s, catches of skipjack increased steadily asa result of expansion of fishing effort into thetropical western and central Pacific and into thewestern Indian Ocean.

Yellowfin is commercially the second mostimportant species of tuna by volume. Its catchesincreased until 2003, reaching a maximum of1.44 million tonnes. Since then, catches havedecreased to about 1 million tonnes in 2008and 2009 (Figure C1.2). Most yellowfin is usedfor canning, but more and more of the catchis being sold in fresh-fish markets (also some as frozen fish). Catches in the Atlantic(Table D19) reached a peak of 161 000 tonnes in 2001 but have since declined to about120 000 tonnes. Catches from the Indian Ocean increased to a maximum of more than0.5 million tonnes in 2004, decreasing to about 259 000 tonnes in 2009. Catches ofyellowfin from the Pacific increased consistently until 1976, when they stabilized. Theydid not begin to rise again until the early 1980s, when large fleets of purse-seine vesselsbegan to fish in the tropical western and central Pacific. Catches reached a maximumof almost 900 000 tonnes in 2002 and have recently fluctuated between 610 000 and752 000 tonnes.

Bigeye, the third-most important species in terms of landed volume (Figure C1.3)is similar in appearance to yellowfin. However, unlike yellowfin, large bigeye tunalive primarily in deeper waters and spend most of their lives in cold waters below theupper mixed layer of the ocean where they are mainly taken by longlines. Their highfat content (for insulation from the cold water) make them desired for the Japanesesashimi market. The rapid and substantial increase in catches in the mid-1970s resultedfrom modifications to longline gear. This enabled longlines to be used in much deeperwater than previously. However, the use of FADs has shown smaller bigeye aggregatein schools mixed with skipjack closer to the surface. Recently, the longline catches oflarge bigeye have been declining. At the same time, purse-seine catches of smaller bigeyehave been rapidly increasing. These trends resulted in continuous large increases in total catches for the species to the maximum of about 467 000 tonnes in 2004, decreasing toslightly more than 400 000 tonnes in 2009.

World production of albacore, used mostly for canning, increased from 1950 to theearly 1970s. It has fluctuated without a clear trend since then (recently at a slightlyhigher level) with the maximum catches of 256 000 tonnes in 2009 (Figure C1.3). In the1980s and early 1990s, driftnet fisheries made large catches of small albacore on the highseas in the southwest and northeast Pacific. With the termination of these fisheries, thetotal albacore catch declined in the Pacific.

Atlantic, Pacific and southern bluefin contribute relatively little in terms of volumeto the total catches of principal market tunas (Figure C1.3). However, their individualvalue is high because of their use for sashimi. Catches of Atlantic bluefin followed agenerally declining trend from the early 1950s to the early 1970s. In the next decadeand half, catches fluctuated without trend. In the early 1990s, catches increased rapidlyto 53 000 tonnes in 1996 as a consequence of improved reporting in the MediterraneanSea. Reported catches declined after 1996 to 21 000 tonnes in 2009. The catch of Pacificbluefin peaked at 40 000 tonnes in 1956. The smallest catch was 8 000 tonnes in 1990.Catches have fluctuated between 10 000 and 30 000 tonnes since that time. Catches ofsouthern bluefin increased steeply from 14 000 tonnes in 1952 to 50 000 tonnes in 1961.They fluctuated without trend between 40 000 tonnes and 55 000 tonnes until 1972.Catches decreased steeply and steadily from 47 000 tonnes in 1980 to 12 000 tonnes in1991. In the last decade, they have been between 10 000 and 17 500 tonnes.

The catches of tunas and tuna-like species other than the principal market tunas alsoincreased significantly from about 0.5 million tonnes in the early 1970s to slightly morethan 2 million tonnes in 2009 (Table D19). Less than 10 percent of them are composedof billfishes, taken mainly in the Pacific and Atlantic. In terms of volume, the mostimportant species of tunas and tuna-like species other than the principal market tunas(i.e. small tunas and tuna-like species) are: kawakawa, frigate and bullet tunas, longtailtuna, narrow-barred Spanish mackerel, swordfish, frigate tuna, Japanese Spanishmackerel, Indo-Pacific king mackerel, eastern Pacific bonito, Atlantic bonito, Indo-Pacific sailfish, blue marlin and king mackerels.

Figure C1.2 Annual global catches of tuna and tuna-like species
Figure C1.3 Annual global catches of selected tunas

Main areas
Since 1950, the largest proportion of principal market tunas has beenalways taken from the Pacific (Figure C1.1), reaching more than 3 million tonnes in2009 (Gillett 2010, 2011a, 2011b). This represents about 71 percent of global annualcatch of principal market tunas. Skipjack and yellowfin contribute about 87 percent ofthe total catch of principal market tunas in the Pacific.

Until the mid-1980s, catches of principal market species in the Atlantic Ocean andthe Mediterranean Sea were greater than those in the Indian Ocean. About that time,they became smaller than those in the Indian Ocean. Catches of principal market tunasin the Atlantic declined from the maximum of slightly more than 0.6 million tonnesannually in 1994 to slightly below 0.4 million tonnes in 2009. This represents onlyabout 9.5 percent of global landings of principal market tunas. Bigeye, skipjack andyellowfin contribute about 85 percent of the total catches of principal market speciesthere.

Prior to the 1980s, the catch from the Indian Ocean accounted for less than 8 percentof world production of principal market tunas. As a result of the expansion of tunafishing operations in the region, catches of skipjack and yellowfin increased rapidly inthe mid-1980s. Consequently, catches of principal market tunas in the Indian Oceansurpassed those in the Atlantic Ocean, accounting for about 20 percent of globallandings of principal market tunas in 2009 (about 836 000 tonnes). Currently, skipjackand yellowfin contribute about 94 percent of the total catches of principal market tunasfrom the Indian Ocean.

The principal market tuna catches of Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines arecurrently the largest of all countries (more than 0.4 million tonnes caught in 2009).Traditional tuna fishing players include Taiwan Province of China (328 217 tonnes in2009), the Republic of Korea (319 726 tonnes in 2009), Spain (252 391 tonnes in 2009), theUnited States of America (201 208 tonnes in 2009) and France (89 856 tonnes in 2009).In addition, recent catches of Papua New Guinea (213 018 tonnes in 2009), Ecuador(185 323 tonnes in 2009), Mexico (129 926 tonnes in 2009) and China (124 809 tonnes in2009) exceeded those of some traditional tuna fishing countries. This reflects a generaltrend of increasing importance of non-traditional tuna fishing countries (mostlydeveloping countries). Tuna fisheries are growing in both the Indian and Pacific Oceans,particularly off Southeast Asia. These fisheries include the artisanal sector and catchmostly small tunas, skipjack and yellowfin. This sector’s growth has also been significantin the entire Indian Ocean. Other important countries catching principal market tunasinclude: Sri Lanka (121 176 tonnes in 2009), Panama (86 918 tonnes in 2009), Maldives(86 804 tonnes in 2009), Seychelles (73 819 tonnes in 2009), Iran (Islamic Republic of)(67 415 tonnes in 2009) and Ghana (64 973 tonnes in 2009).

Fishery Area

Geo References
States fishing tuna and tuna-like species cooperate regarding conservation andfisheries management within several international frameworks (FAO, 1994; Marashi,1996; Beckett, 1998), particularly those of the CCSBT, IATTC, ICCAT, IOTC andWCPFC.

Jurisdictional framework

FAO, 2010. Competence areas of Tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations
Management Body/Authority(ies): Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC)
Mandate: Scientific Advice; Management.  

The IATTC is the oldest tuna fishery body and was established in 1950, whereasthe WCPFC is the youngest body and has been operational since 2004. In addition totheir responsibilities in conservation and fisheries management, the CCSBT, IATTC,ICCAT, IOTC and WCPFC facilitate the data collection, collation, processing anddissemination. They are also responsible for stock assessment and other fisheriesresearch in support of fisheries management and for regional coordination in their areasof competence. The IATTC carries out intensive research, having significant researchcapacity, while the role of the CCSBT, ICCAT and IOTC in research is mostly limitedto the coordination of activities of their member countries.

Mandate: Scientific Advice; Management.  

The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas is an inter-governmental fishery organization responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent seas. In the Mediterranean Sea (which is included in the area of competence of ICCAT) ICCAT closely collaborates with the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) regarding tuna and tuna-like species statistics and bycatch issues.

ICCAT compiles fishery statistics from its members and from all entities fishing for these species in the Atlantic Ocean, coordinates research, including stock assessment, on behalf of its members, develops scientific-based management advice, provides a mechanism for Contracting Parties to agree on management measures, and produces relevant publications.

Mandate: Scientific Advice; Management.  

Management Body/Authority(ies): Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC)
Mandate: Scientific Advice; Management.  

The IOTC and GFCM are fishery bodies of FAO. Before the creation of the IOTC,the FAO/UNDP Indo-Pacific Tuna Programme coordinated and carried out tunaresearch in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific off Southeast Asia. Before its termination,it transferred the responsibility for data collation, processing and dissemination for tunaand tuna-like species in the Pacific off Southeast Asia to the Southeast Asian FisheryDevelopment Center (SEAFDEC). Now, the WCPFC is mostly responsible for theseactivities.

Mandate: Scientific Advice; Management.  

CCSBT deals with only one target species (southern bluefintuna) on a global scale.

Management Body/Authority(ies):
Mandate: Scientific Advice; Management.  

Mandate: Scientific Advice; Management.  

Management Body/Authority(ies): Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)
Mandate: Scientific Advice; Monitoring.  

The Secretariat to the South Pacific Community (SPC) has a significant researchcapacity that fulfils technical functions similar to the tuna fishery bodies. However,its responsibilities do not extend to fisheries management in the region. The recentlycreated WCPFC fulfils that responsibility. The Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA, is substantially involved in negotiating and regulating access of distant-watertuna vessels to the EEZs of its members in the South Pacific. The Parties to the NauruAgreement, another subregional grouping of coastal countries, have established amanagement regime with limits on fishing effort for purse-seine vessels.

Cooperation must also extend beyond the scale of single oceans. Industrial tunafleets are highly mobile and the principal market tunas are intensively traded on aglobal scale. In addition, many tuna research, conservation and management problemsare similar in all oceans. Therefore, there is a need for global exchange of informationand collaboration regarding fisheries for tunas and other species with a wide globaldistribution. An important example of such collaboration is the formulation in 1995 ofthe Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the UN Convention on theLaw of the Sea of 10 December 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Managementof Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (frequently referred to asthe UN Fish Stocks Agreement or UNFSA). The UN facilitated the conclusion of thisagreement, and FAO actively assisted, from the technical point of view, in the agreementbeing reached (Doulman, 1995).

The UNFSA entered into force on 11 December, 2001. It became a new legal basisfor its signatories in relation to conservation and fisheries management of tuna andtuna-like species (supplementing the UNCLOS). In 1995, the Code of Conduct forResponsible Fisheries (the Code) was completed within the framework of FAO (FAO,1995). Although not legally binding, the Code provides a norm for all fisheries and relatedactivities. The UNFSA and the Code introduce new requirements for conservation,fisheries management, technology and research regarding tuna and tuna-like species.They are likely to affect various sectors of the tuna industry (Mahon, 1996). As a result,the high seas are no longer an area where unrestricted fishing is allowed.

The precautionary approach incorporated into the UNFSA and the Code may affectthe exploitation of tuna and tuna-like species. It calls on States to be more cautiouswhere information is uncertain, unreliable or inadequate (FAO, 1996; Majkowski,1998). Adequate information is available for most stocks of principal market tunas todetermine whether they are fully exploited or overexploited. However, for many othertuna and tuna-like species, this is not the case. Within the context of the precautionaryapproach, the absence of adequate scientific information should not be used as a reasonfor postponing or failing to undertake conservation or fisheries management measures.In Thailand in March 2000, FAO coorganized, jointly with the CCSBT, IATTC, ICCAT,IOTC and SPC, a global Expert Consultation on Implications of the PrecautionaryApproach for Tuna Biological and Technological Research (FAO, 2001).

FAO has been involved in the consideration of many other global issues involvingtuna and tuna-like species. For example, it executed a technical, multidisciplinarytrust fund project (GCP/INT/851/JPN) on the management of tuna fishing capacity,conservation and socio-economics. The technical advisory committee for the projectwas composed of experts affiliated with the CCSBT, FFA, IATTC, ICCAT, INFOFISH(, IOTC, SPC and international associations of tuna longliners andpurse seiners. The project’s activities involved global studies and an Expert Consultationon the Management of Tuna Fishing Capacity, Conservation and Socio-economics. Formany tuna fishing fleets, there is insufficient control of their capacity, actual fishingeffort and catches. Recently, concerns on overcapacity of tuna fleets have emerged(Joseph, 2003). As a result, FAO has formulated and implemented a project on themanagement of tuna fishing capacity. This project has been undertaken in collaborationwith the organizations mentioned above with the objectives of: (i) providing the necessary technical information; and (ii) identifying, considering and resolving technicalproblems associated with the global management of tuna fishing capacity, taking intoaccount conservation and socio-economic issues.

FAO has actively participated in joint tuna RFMOs (t-RFMOs) meetings and inmeetings with their member countries. This global consultation has been frequentlyreferred to as the Kobe Process because it started from a meeting held in Kobe,Japan, in 2007. The objectives of this meeting were to improve the operation andeffectiveness of t-RFMOs and to achieve their objectives by harmonizing theiractivities on a global scale. FAO’s project on the management of tuna fishing capacityhas provided a significant input to the process in a form of recommendations on thatmanagement including those on the application of a rights-based approach to tunafisheries management.

Currently, FAO is formulating a Programme on Areas Beyond National Jurisdictionto be supported by the GEF. Within this programme, FAO, in consultation witht-RFMOs and other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, isformulating a project on tuna fisheries to improve their sustainability. This project willprobably implement some of the recommendations made during the Kobe Process, butthe activities of the project may go beyond that process.

In addition, FAO collates data on nominal catches of all fish species including tunasas a part of a general database on all fish species. It also collates data for other databases,specifically for only tuna and billfishes. The first data set for all species is based mostlyon official national statistics and does not distinguish among different types of fishinggear. The second data set specifically for tunas identifies gear types as it is basedmainly on statistics from the t-RFMOs (Carocci and Majkowski, 2011b). Both setscan be accessed from the FAO Web page. FAO also collates data on the geographicaldistribution of catches of tunas and billfishes on the global scale. On the basis of thesedata, paper, CD and Internet versions of an atlas of tuna and billfish catches have beenprepared (Carocci and Majkowski 1996, 1998, 2011a). These data as well as informationon tuna resources, fisheries and their management are being incorporated into FAO’sFisheries Global Information System (FIGIS).

The depletion of some bluefin stocks has been the prime problem for the t-RFMOs,particularly for those specifically dealing with these stocks (ICCAT and CCSBT).However, the problem creates a very bad image for all tuna fishing and also for theother t-RFMOs. This concern has been also discussed within the context of CITES.In 2010, Atlantic bluefin was not listed in Appendixes of CITES because of CITES’conclusion that ICCAT rather than CITES is the more appropriate organization tomanage Atlantic bluefin tuna fisheries.

However, with the exception of bluefins, serious overfishing has been largely avoidedfor several reasons. These include the high productivity of tuna species and decreasesin fish prices when markets become saturated. In the past, the global overproduction ofcanned tuna led to drastic reductions in prices of some species for canning. With the fullyexploited status of most stocks of tuna and tuna-like species and the overexploitation ofsome stocks, more concerns related to their conservation and fisheries management arelikely to arise. In addition to the concern for bluefin, some stocks of albacore (NorthAtlantic and North Pacific), bigeye (western and central Pacific), swordfish and someother billfishes merit close attention because of overfishing. Without adequate fisheriesmanagement, future catches of some species may decline in the long term as a result ofoverfishing.

The measures used by the t-RFMOs are a mix of catch limits for stocks, closedfishing seasons either for the entire fishery or for smaller areas, and limiting entry tofisheries. However, the management techniques used tend to encourage competitionamong fishers to obtain the greatest share of catches available under the managementrule. Some of the t-RFMOs (IATTC, IOTC and WCPFC) have adopted forms of limited entry to vessels or are limiting fishing effort. The ICCAT relies more on catchquotas that are allocated to its members.

The monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) of tuna fisheries are mostly carriedout by the members of t-RFMOs. It is essential to ensure management measures areobserved, but some observer programmes and one vessel monitoring system are managedmultilaterally. The t-RFMOs have included trade measures as incentives for compliancewith management measures. Many of the major market States have a requirement fortracing imports to their source. The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation(ISSF) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) are working actively as stakeholdersto improve the application of Marine Stewardship Council certification in tuna fisheries.The t-RFMOs are in the process of introducing improved MCS systems, which are thesubject of discussions of the Kobe Process.

The effectiveness of tuna fisheries management has been improving. However, furthersubstantial progress is still required. Allen (2010) reported that, for the 14 stocks ofprincipal stocks in need of fisheries management at the time of his study, the t-RFMOstook action consistent with the scientific advice for only five of them. Moreover, whenthe right management decisions are undertaken, these decisions are not necessarilyproperly executed. In other words, there is a need for significant improvement infisheries management in terms of implementing the correct decisions and much betterMCS. The facilitation of these changes has been one of the reasons for initiating theKobe Process and seeking the GEF’s support for improving the effectiveness of tunafisheries management.

With the present status of stocks, the catches of principal market tunas shouldnot increase on the global scale in the near future. This is unless future technologicaldevelopments can allow an increase in skipjack catches without increasing those ofbigeye and yellowfin. As mentioned above, there is potential for a significant increasein catches of skipjack in the western and central Pacific. However, in this area, skipjackis taken together with small bigeye and yellowfin, and increases of bigeye and yellowfincatches are not desirable. In general, the multispecies nature of many tuna fisheriesmakes it difficult to control the fishing mortality selectively because several species arefrequently caught together.

The overall yield from tuna and tuna-like species depends on the combination of fishingtechniques and fishing effort. The various fishing methods have different effectiveness andselectivity characteristics when targeting various age groups. Improvements in the yieldmight be achieved in some cases (e.g. albacore and yellowfin in the Atlantic and otheroceans, bigeye in the Atlantic and Pacific, and southern bluefin tuna) by reducing thecatch of small or immature tuna. This would allow them to grow and become availableto fisheries such as longlining that target larger fish. Problems occur with compliance tothe present size regulations (e.g. within the framework of ICCAT, especially for Atlanticbluefin in the Mediterranean Sea and in the eastern Atlantic). The intensification offishing around FADs also raises concerns because such fishing tends to result in largecatches of small fish. For example, the problem became so acute in the eastern Atlanticthat the industry (French and Spanish purse seiners) placed self-imposed controls on theuse of FADs. In general, the protection of small sized fish may not necessarily result inincreases in a local yield from an area when species make extensive migrations. In addition,protecting smaller individuals of species with high natural mortality, such as skipjack,may not always achieve the expected results from the conservation point of view.

Bioeconomic interactions among fisheries need to be scientifically addressed for theresolution of fisheries management problems. Coordinated effort in this direction wasinitiated by FAO’s trust fund project Cooperative Research on Interactions of PacificTuna Fisheries (Shomura, Majkowski and Langi, 1993a, 1993b; Shomura, Majkowskiand Harmon, 1995, 1996). At present, with the completion of this project, this effort isbeing continued by regional and national institutions.

The magnitude of incidentally caught species (bycatch), their discards as well as catchof small individuals of target species and the status of stocks of the bycatch species havebeen another area of concern (Alverson et al., 1994; Bailey et al., 1994; Joseph, 1994;Gillett, 2011b; Hall, 1996, 1998; IATTC, 1998). Generally, bycatch from tuna fisheriesare relatively low. However, they include species of dolphins, turtles, seabirds andsharks, which receive particularly wide attention from the international community.In recent years, there has been more attention given by the t-RFMOs to conservationof associated biodiversity. The IATTC has an active programme of conserving dolphinsthat started in 1980. It developed into a standalone voluntary agreement among thecountries involved in purse-seine fishing in 1992. This agreement was succeeded bythe legally binding Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Program in1998. This programme successfully maintains the mortality of dolphins associated withthe purse seine fishery at very low levels.

Of associated fish species, sharks are the most vulnerable to fishing (Chapter C2;Musick and Musick, 2011). In recent years, t-RFMOs have been initiating assessmentsof some shark stocks, and have taken measures to reduce bycatch and to control sharkfinning. This generally requires that bodies of sharks as well as fins are unloaded. TheIATTC requires parties to encourage the live release of sharks taken as bycatch. TheICCAT prohibits directed fisheries for thresher sharks, and any landings of bigeyethresher sharks. It requires that parties take measures to reduce mortality from directedfisheries for porbeagle and shortfin mako sharks. Bycatch of other fish species takenduring tuna fishing, which seem to be less vulnerable than sharks, are also receivingattention. The IATTC and WCPFC have measures to encourage the live release of thesespecies to the extent possible.

All of the t-RFMOs have measures to reduce mortality of turtles and seabirds.The IATTC and members of ICCAT and IOTC have been carrying out research tominimize turtle mortality during longlining and purse-seining. The IATTC has anextension programme training and assisting artisanal longline fishers in reducing turtlemortality. All of the t-RFMOs have measures requiring longline vessels to use devicesto keep seabirds away from fishing gear. Governments, the ISSF and WWF have carriedout investigative work with the aim of making fishing more selective.

In the future, a greater utilization of bycatch species may be expected. Fishing maybecome more selective through gear modifications and changes in fishing areas andseasons. Moreover, more research will probably be undertaken to determine the statusof stocks of incidentally caught species. There is already some improvement in thecollection of data on bycatch.

There are various management measures imposed for tuna fisheries at regional scales,particularly in areas where the t-RFMOS have been operational for a long time. Thisis the case in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea (ICCAT) and the easterntropical Pacific (IATTC). In the case of ICCAT, the measures include: size limits forbluefin; fishing effort restrains for yellowfin and bluefin; catch limits for albacore,bigeye and bluefin; and restrictions on the use of FADs in some areas or periods. Someother measures include seasonal and geographical closures in the Mediterranean Sea.

Source of Information
Marine and Inland Fisheries Service, Fisheries and Aquaculture Resources Use and Conservation Division. FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department “Review of the state of world marine fishery resources” . FAO FISHERIES AND AQUACULTURE TECHNICAL PAPER. No. 569. Rome, FAO. 2011. Click to open
The bibliographic references are available through the hyperlink displayed in "Source of Information".

The authors are grateful to Dr Peter Miyake and his colleagues for their help withthe provision of information for the preparation of the section ob Fisheries and TableC1.1. They also appreciate the assistance of the Secretariats and tuna scientists of FFA,t-RFMOs and SPC with obtaining information for this review and their cooperation andcollaboration with FAO. Drs Robin Allen and Victor Restrepo have kindly providedhelpful suggestions for improving an earlier version of this review.
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