Yellowfin Tuna


Latin name: Thunnus albacares


Common name: Tuna

  • Eat Less

Wild Caught

Region:
Eastern Commonwealth waters

Key Facts

  • Yellowfin tuna is a migratory species caught by a number of different countries, including Australia, where the largest Australian fishery operates along the eastern coastline.
  • Yellowfin tuna stocks are not classified as overfished.
  • Video monitoring of all fishing boats operating in the tuna fishery is a welcome advance, improving confidence in fishery log book reports.
  • Yellowfin tuna are caught on longlines that also catch endangered wildlife, such as turtles, seabirds, whales and dolphins.
  • Reported interactions with turtles, seabirds, whales and dolphins have increased significantly in recent years, most likely as a result of the introduction of video monitoring in this fishery.
  • The number of threatened and protected wildlife caught in the fishery is of increasing concern, and fishery managers would need to put wildlife protection measures in place to retain an Amber rating in future.

More information

  • Commonwealth Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (1,684t in 2017-18)

Yellowfin tuna is a highly migratory species, fished throughout its range in the tropical regions of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. The Amber ‘Eat Less’ ranking is the result of an assessment of the eastern fishery that catches the majority of yellowfin tuna in Australian-managed waters. The Australian catch of yellowfin tuna is less than 1% of the total catch in the Western Pacific region, with the vast majority of the catch coming from other countries fishing on the high seas.

Recent information suggests that there may be a number of different stocks of yellowfin tuna across the east coast area fished by the Australian fishery. This is currently not considered in the management of the fishery, although there are no indications that these stocks are overfished at present.

Yellowfin tuna are caught using longlines in Australian waters, which also catch a range of threatened species. In previous years, fishery observers undertook independent monitoring of the impact of fishing on endangered wildlife. Video monitoring across the fishing fleet was rolled out in 2015. This welcome progress provides confidence in reporting of wildlife affected by the fishery.

However, video monitoring has identified that fishers were significantly under-reporting how much endangered wildlife was killed in the past, which means that the impact of this fishery is substantially higher than previously thought. Since cameras have been installed on boats, the number of turtles, seabirds, whales and dolphins recorded as caught has significantly increased.

The catch of turtles in particular has increased over the past decade. In 2017, 194 turtles were caught, compared to the 4-16 that were reported as caught annually in the three years before video monitoring was mandated on the fishing vessels. In previous years, a ‘trigger limit’ was in place which required fishery managers to take action if the rate of turtle catch exceeded a certain level. This trigger limit has since been removed, which means there are no measures in place to cap the number of turtles caught in the tuna fishery.

A similar picture has emerged in seabird and marine mammal bycatch. There were zero seabirds recorded in log-books in 2013, before video cameras were installed, but 34 killed in 2017 after camera installation. Similarly, no dolphin or whale deaths were reported in 2013 or 2014, but 7 dolphins and whales were killed in 2017.

Turtles, whales, dolphins and seabirds are at risk from multiple threats, including fishing. Given the small scale of the Australian tuna fishery relative to international tuna fisheries, it is unlikely that this fishery is the major driver of on-going population declines in these species of endangered wildlife. As the framework that is in place to manage the fishery is robust, it is expected the identification of these issues will lead to improvements in the fishery. Increased monitoring of the fishery is a significant improvement, leading to greater transparency and more reliable fishery reporting. However, fishery managers would need to put wildlife protection measures in place to reduce the impact of fishing on these species in order to maintain an Amber ‘ Think Twice’ rating in future.

Commonwealth marine parks, set to be established in 2018, may provide a degree of protection to endangered wildlife. However, it is notable that sectors of the tuna fishing industry sought, and may yet secure, significant reductions in the area protected from fishing in offshore eastern Australian waters.

  • Say No

Wild Caught

Region:
Imported

Key Facts

  • Yellowfin tuna is a migratory species caught by a number of different countries. Australia imports fresh 'tuna' from the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
  • There is some concern that stocks in the Pacific Ocean are already overfished and current high levels of fishing are likely to cause further depletions in yellowfin tuna stocks.
  • Yellowfin tuna caught in the Indian and Pacific Oceans is fished using longlines, gillnets and purse seines.
  • Bycatch of vulnerable marine wildlife is generally not monitored, but the impact of fishing activity on many shark species has been well documented. Population declines of sharks as a result of bycatch in international tuna fisheries is of major concern, particularly as sharks are sometimes targeted for their high value fins.

More information

  • Imported from Indian Ocean, Western & Central Pacific Ocean stocks,

Yellowfin tuna is a highly migratory species, fished throughout its range in the tropical regions of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Trade records indicate Australia imported 318t of fresh, frozen and chilled (not including canned) tuna in 2011-12 from Fiji, Indonesia, the Maldives and NZ, but no detail of species imported or where the fish was caught is provided. Therefore it is not possible to provide specific advice on individual fisheries and the red ‘Say No’ ranking is the result of an assessment of the main way in which yellowfin tuna are fished and general stock status in the Western and Central Pacific and Indian Oceans.

In general, there is some concern from fisheries scientists that stocks in the Pacific Ocean are already overfished and current high levels of fishing are likely to cause further depletions in yellowfin tuna stocks.

Yellowfin tuna caught in the Pacific and Indian Oceans is taken using longlines, gillnets and purse seines associated with Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs). FADs are artificial objects that float on the surface of the ocean and exploit the natural tendency of fish and other marine wildlife to aggregate under floating objects. The bycatch of large numbers of sharks, including whale sharks, and turtles has been well documented in FAD-associated fisheries. Longlining and gillnetting is also responsible for the capture of threatened sharks, turtles and seabirds. Sharks are often targeted for the high value of their fins, a practice that is increasing in many tuna longline fisheries that catch yellowfin tuna. Scientists have assessed that tuna longlining has contributed to population declines of a number of shark species worldwide.

The countries that manage the fisheries generally do not monitor the bycatch caught, and independent observer coverage is low to non-existent.

  • Say No

Wild Caught

Region:
Western Commonwealth waters

Key Facts

  • Yellowfin tuna are mainly caught along the eastern coastline, with a smaller fishery operating off the west.
  • It is highly likely that the yellowfin tuna stock caught off western Australia is overfished, and international fishing pressure in the wider Indian Ocean is still set too high to allow the stock to recover. As the Australian portion of the catch is small, it is unlikely that fishing in Australian waters is driving the decline in the population.
  • Video monitoring of all fishing boats operating in the tuna fishery is a welcome advance, improving confidence in fishery log book reports.
  • Yellowfin tuna are caught on longlines that also catch endangered wildlife, such as turtles, seabirds, whales and dolphins.
  • Reports of interactions with turtles, seabirds, whales and dolphins has increased significantly in recent years, most likely as a result of the introduction of video monitoring in the fishery.

More information

  • Commonwealth Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery (66t in 2016)

Yellowfin tuna is a highly migratory species, fished throughout its range in the tropical regions of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. More than 90% of the Australian catch of yellowfin tuna is from a fishery operating along the eastern coastline. The smaller catch from the western coastline is assessed here.

It is highly likely that the stock of yellowfin tuna caught caught off western Australia is overfished, and international fishing pressure in the wider Indian Ocean is still set too high to allow the stock to recover. As the Australian portion of the catch is small, it is unlikely that fishing in Australian waters is driving the decline in the population.

Yellowfin tuna are caught using longlines in Australian waters, which also catch a range of threatened species. In previous years, fishery observers undertook independent monitoring of the impact of fishing on endangered wildlife. Video monitoring across the fishing fleet was rolled out in 2015. This welcome advance provides high confidence in reporting of wildlife affected by the fishery.

However, video monitoring has identified that fishers were significantly under-reporting how much endangered wildlife has been killed in the fishery in the past, which means that the impact of this fishery is likely higher than previously thought.

Since cameras have been on boats the number of turtles, seabirds, whales and dolphins caught has increased. Given the relatively small scale of this fishery, it is unlikely that it is driving decline in the populations of these species, or preventing their recovery. However, it is expected that management measures are put in place to ensure that marine wildlife bycatch reduces over time.

Commonwealth marine parks, set to be established in 2018, may provide a degree of protection to endangered wildlife. However, it is notable that sectors of the tuna fishing industry sought, and may yet secure, significant reductions in the area protected from fishing in offshore western Australian waters.