Areas of Focus

Tuna

Tuna fisheries are some of the most important but challenging fisheries to sustainably manage.

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A sustainable future for tuna rests on our ability to change the way we consume, fish, and manage tuna resources.

According to the FAO, roughly 7.7 million tonnes of tuna and tuna-like species were caught in 2013—a staggering increase from catches in the 1950s when fewer than 0.6 million tons of tuna were caught. Tuna considered principal market tuna species—that is albacore, bigeye, bluefin (three species), skipjack and yellowfin—accounted for about 70 perfect of the tuna caught in 2013, the majority of which was harvested from the Pacific. Skipjack, the most plentiful and productive principal market tuna, accounts for about 66 percent of principal tuna catch, followed by yellowfin and bigeye (about 25 and 10 percent, respectively). Among the seven principal tuna species, 41 percent of stocks were estimated to be fished at biologically unsustainable levels.

Tuna fishing takes place in national waters as well as on the high seas, where ineffective international management makes sustainable fishing a challenge. Tuna fisheries management takes place via multi-national cooperation delivered through treaty systems and regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs). While these systems can potentially be effective at defining policy, their member countries often lack the ability to implement or ensure compliance at local, national, and ocean levels, putting tuna resources at risk.


What is a RFMO?

A RFMO is an international body made up of countries that share a practical and/or financial interest in managing and conserving fish stocks in a particular region. RFMOs are established by international agreements or treaties and can take different forms. Some focus on regulating fishing for a particular species or group of species. Others have a broader mandate, with responsibility to ensure that the fishery does not negatively affect the wider marine ecosystem and the species within it. RFMOs face substantial challenges in decision-making, including a lack of political commitment, comprehensive compliance by members, as well as a lack of effective control of non-member activities.


Despite these challenges, positive transformation of tuna management is gaining momentum, especially in the canned tuna fisheries (which primarily target skipjack and albacore tunas). This includes the adoption of improved management strategies through Harvest Control Rules, collaborative work through programs such as the United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization’s Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction program which trains local tuna managers on best practices, and a growing consumer awareness regarding the critically endangered status of select tuna populations.


Stories from the Field: Tuna


Meet O2's Tuna Expert

Born and raised in London, England, Daniel has always had a passion for coastal environments, the ocean, and marine life. This passion has led to a 15 year career in the field of fisheries and marine conservation. As O2’s Policy Director Daniel is responsible for expanding O2’s portfolio of work, policies, and strategies, working closely with O2’s regional program teams to improve understanding and implementation of sustainable fishery management policies. Prior to O2 Daniel spent six years at World Wildlife Fund (WWF), most recently as Deputy Leader of WWF’s Smart Fishing Initiative. There he lead, managed, and coordinated WWF global engagement in tuna fisheries and provided strategic direction to WWF international on seafood engagement strategy. His past experience also includes a role as Senior Fisheries Certification Manager for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) where he improved the credibility of fishery assessments, lead and managed the technical review process of the MSC fisheries team, and developed and implemented policies and processes to strengthen the MSC fisheries assessment program. When not saving the oceans Daniel is a keen climber and hiker, and he enjoys getting out into the countryside as much as he can. Daniel holds a B.Sc in Biology from Royal Holloway, University of London and an M.Sc. in Conservation from University College London.