FAO appraises tuna fisheries worldwide
A giant bluefin caught in the Central Atlantic
Menakhem Ben-Yami takes a look at the global tuna industry.
Approximately 40 species of tuna roam all over the world's tropical, subtropical, and temperate waters, and they represent a very important source of food and employment in both developed and developing countries.
The global yields of tuna have been continually rising, exceeding 6.6m mt in 2010, an increase on 1950 yields by a factor of 11. The 2010 value of two thirds of the latter yields, consisting of the economically most important, ‘principal’ market species, was more than US$10 billion.
Landed all around the world by vessels from more than 85 countries, tuna represents about 8% of international trade in seafood products. The bulk of the catches of the principal market tuna species come from the Pacific (70.5% in 2008), with the Indian Ocean contributing more (19.5% in 2010) than both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean (10.0% in 2010) together.
In 2010, skipjack, yellowfin, bigeye and albacore yields came up to over 99% of the total tuna landings. Bluefin from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans was less than 2%. Most tropical principal market tunas have reacted well to exploitation because of their high fecundity, a relatively short life span, wide geographic distribution and opportunistic behaviour that make them highly productive. The tropical species of skipjack and yellowfin are used mostly for canning. Because of that, they fetch lower prices than the tuna used for sashimi, such as bluefin and bigeye (bigeye is a tropical species).
Stocks of temperate species (albacore and bluefin) are less productive and may be more susceptible to overexploitation. Some bluefin stocks (used for expensive sashimi) are, in fact, significantly depleted, which is a prime conservation problem. The albacore fetches much lower prices than bluefin but usually higher than skipjack and yellowfin.
In addition to the directly landed wild-caught tuna, some are fattened in floating-cage farms – an industry not considered true aquaculture. It consists of capturing young tuna alive, transferring them into large, floating cages, where they're intensively fed until they arrive at the size and fat content that make them fit for high (sashimi) level marketing. This is done mainly in the Mediterranean and in Australia. Much of the above go for sashimi and/or sushi treats to the Japanese and, recently, also to the fast developing international market.
Sashimi, once an exclusively Japanese delicacy, has become popular globally, wherever rich consumers abound. The species of tuna commonly found at the sushi bar are bluefin, yellowfin, bigeye and albacore, although, in Japan, also skipjack is now used. The prices of top-quality sea-caught tuna have reached extravagant levels, with some bluefin giants, which fetched prices of 2,000US$/kg and over, sold for sums sufficient to pay for several Jaguar cars. On the other hand, in general, the price of skipjack and yellowfin used in the canning industry remains low enough. Thus, the management of these and some other ‘normally’ priced tuna should be regarded separately from those of the extravagantly priced and, thus, overfished ones.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO) has recently published an appraisal of the state and performance of the world fisheries of tuna and tuna-like species in the 2010. Edited by Fabio Carocci and Jacek Majkowski, it can be downloaded here.
According to FAO, the main tuna stocks are currently more or less fully exploited, some are overexploited and very few are under-exploited, so that maintaining tuna stocks at sustainable levels requires improving and strengthening their management. This would, in turn, need international cooperation and, at the national level, better fishery monitoring and management. To developing countries FAO proposes innovative monitoring systems and capacity development for fisheries research and management.
On regional scales, tuna fishing countries are collaborating in the management of tuna fisheries and capture-based farming. Tuna fisheries management is executed within the frameworks of five tuna Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (t-RFMOs). Since 2008, FAO has been providing and/or facilitating technical input to the global joint meetings of t-RFMOs, taking place every second year. Many of the problems involved are common across different, however distant, regions. Hence, the need for global approach and cooperation, including, research and data collection, as well as processing, storage, distribution and marketing, and any related development.
One outcome of such cooperation is the UN Fish Stocks agreement. The Agreement and the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries set new standards for tuna fisheries management, technology, research and data requirements. To maintain global multidisciplinary co-operation and information exchange, every two years FAO organises a joint meeting of all RFMOs (including the tuna ones) with the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI).
Over the years, FAO has formulated and implemented various global, regional and national projects and facilitated, often externally funded, meetings in support of the management of tuna fisheries and capture-based aquaculture. On the global scale, they have included:
- Projects on ‘Cooperative Research on Interactions of Tuna Fisheries Interactions’ and ‘Management of Tuna Fishing Capacity: Conservation and Socio-economics’
- The Expert Consultation on ‘Implications of the Precautionary Approach for Tuna Biological and Technological Research’
An FAO led five-year programme on ‘Global Sustainable Fisheries Management and Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ)’ is developing, in consultation with fishing countries, the t-RFMOs, inter-governmental organisations, NGOs, and the tuna fishing industry, a project to improve sustainable management of tuna fisheries and promote biodiversity conservation.
Links to related companies and recent articles ...
- Sweden pledges USD$5.4m to help FAO tackle illegal fishing
- Treaty to end rogue fishing progresses
- FAO trains on sustainable aquaculture
- Developing sustainable mariculture in Iran
- FAO Aquaculture Officer to chair OMC 2016
- New agreement strengthens partnership
- Call for contributions to FAO overview of COPs/BMPs in aquaculture
- FAO mourns passing of Bisessar Chakalall
- More countries sign illegal fishing treaty
- Debate starts on aquaculture’s pros and cons
- Seattle to host symposium on energy use in fisheries
- FAO proposes global guidelines for aquaculture certification
- FAO initiates new strike on illegal fishing
- First global guidelines on reducing discards
- Europe must lead overfishing turnaround
- Fish consumption reaches all-time high
- RSN addresses fisheries governance areas
- FAO: Action on responsible fisheries
- FAO Yearbook: Fishery and aquaculture statistics available
- New FAO Deputy-Director General
- FAO receives award from AFS
- Margarita Lizarraga Medal award 2010-2011
- FAO/WHO report embraced by fisheries
- Sri Lanka hands over safety equipment
- UN agency proposals to protect the ocean
- FAO releases interactive aquaculture map
- Aquaculture meeting growing demand
- FAO publishes aquaculture papers
- iMarine for data sharing launched
- New FAO Director-General
- New report tackles child labour in fisheries
- FAO publishes MPA technical guidelines
- Saudi Arabia and FAO step up cooperation
- Supply growth of farmed salmon in 2012
- UN sustainability conference Rio+20
- SOFIA 2012 published
- New declaration on oceans and fisheries welcomed by FAO
- Aquaculture project to fight hunger
- Manual to assess impacts of Caribbean fishing
- FAO fuel saving manual for small vessels
- FAO reviews shark management plan
- FAO workshop on crises in Africa
- International guidelines to combat IUU fishing
- Mediterranean and Black Sea sharks risk extinction
- FAO launches Fishing Vessels Finder
- FAO and Indonesia to strengthen cooperation
- Jellyfish ‘blooms’ endanger fish stocks
- Measures adopted for key Mediterranean and Black Sea stocks
- Countries urged to protect children
- Ghana aquaculture development plan
- Offshore mariculture assessment
- Enhancing tuna management and conservation
- Fisheries severely damaged by Typhoon Haiyan
- FAO calls for prompt action in the Philippines
- Two thirds of fish to come from aquaculture by 2030
- World fish trade to set new records
- Conference recognises importance of fishermen’s data
- Fish farming holds great promise as demand for food rises
- Brazil adds $17m to FAO projects
- New iSharkFin software to identify sharks
- New fish drying technology unveiled
- Fisheries to benefit from World Bank grants
- The role of women in the seafood industry
- Industry takes action on IUU fishing
- Grants to develop sustainable fisheries
- Japan targets greater self sufficiency
- FAO appraises tuna fisheries worldwide
- Straight off the boat
- New China – an awaking giant
- Offshore Mariculture Conference 2014 chairman announced
- The Philippine disaster and local relief action
- Speaking up for small-scale fisheries
- Intensifying aquaculture in Asia
- Aquaculture can grow faster, says FAO
- Aquaculture intensified in Asia
- New technical paper on longline bycatch
- FAO Fisheries: Model 2015