Scientific nameThunnus alalunga
Other namesAlbacore, Langavin tuna, Longfin tuna
Fishing methodTuna Pole
Area of captureSouth Africa - FAO Area 47
SummaryThe albacore, Thunnus alalunga, is a type of tuna in the family Scombridae. It is found in the open waters of all tropical and temperate oceans, and the Mediterranean Sea. Lengths range up to 140 cm and weights up to 45 kg. It is believed that there are two stocks of albacore: North Atlantic albacore and South Atlantic albacore. The southern stock of albacore has not been scientifically shown to be overfished, but experts believe it may be in a slightly overfished state. A stock assessment was scheduled for July 2009 but is not yet available. Given that fishing pressure has been reduced for the past 3 years, the next stock assessment is likely to show some recovery.
Albacore tuna is caught in the South African tuna fishery, which also catches bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus), yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) and southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii). Albacore tuna are caught through either pole and line, rod and reel, or trolling. These methods of fishing are not destructive to the sea floor (benthic habitats) or bottom dwelling (benthic) species. This fishery is the largest of the large pelagic fisheries in South Africa and the seasonal nature of the fishery means that operation is stopped between October and April of every year. There is usually very little bycatch in this fishery, but sharks and seabirds are occasionally captured. These are mostly alive and subsequently released. The bulk of albacore, including those caught by longline vessels, are exported for canning, making the profit margins for this fishery quite low. Atlantic albacore is managed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) which sets a global TAC for the stock. ICCAT has, since 2003, set a country allocation of 6 000 tons for South Africa. In South Africa, management in this fishery is by effort control, through the allocation of a Total Allowable Effort (TAE) allocation i.e. the number of boats allowed to fish. Evidence from elsewhere suggests that decreases in top predator populations can have ramifications for the functioning of pelagic ecosystems. Large top predators structure aquatic ecosystems and may be essential for the maintenance and stability of food webs and can exert a profound influence on the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems.
Pole fishing, or polling, is a highly selective fishing method, which has little to no impact on the marine environment. This fishing method uses a rigid pole (2 – 3 meters), which is attached to feathered jig which contains a barbless hook; connecting these two is a short piece of line. This fishery is the largest of the large pelagic fisheries in South Africa with 163 vessels being registered between 2002 and 2005. This seasonal operation is open between October and April. There is very little bycatch in this fishery, occasionally sharks and seabirds will be captured but are mostly alive and subsequently released. There is no impact on bottom habitats.
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