South Africa (Atlantic and Indian Oceans) - FAO Area 47 and FAO Area 51
Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) is an open ocean fish, rarely found near reefs. It is a relatively a long-lived tuna species (maximum age of 9 years) with a moderate to high intrinsic vulnerability. It is highly valued for sashimi and regularly served in restaurants. It is theorised that the majority of the yellowfin tuna caught in South African waters originates from Indian Ocean stocks, which are considered to be in better condition than the Atlantic Ocean stocks, though this is yet to be proven with multidisciplinary movement, genetic and biological studies. For this reason the assessment covers both Indian and Atlantic Ocean stocks. Atlantic Ocean Yellowfin tuna was overfished in recent years and reached a low in 2007. Although fishing mortality is most likely 13% below FMSY according to the 2011 ICCAT stock assessment, the stock biomass is likely 15% below the Conventions MSY Objective and is slowly rebuilding. Catches have increased by 10% since the 2007 low with selectivity shifting towards smaller fish. The Indian Ocean yellowfin stock has also shown signs of recovery due in all likelihood to the drop in longline effort and subsequent catch from displacement by the expansion of piracy in the northwest Indian Ocean. The varying seasonal presence of EU purse seine vessels.
As a coastal state that has ratified the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, South Africa is obliged to develop and manage a fishery for large pelagic species in cooperation with the relevant Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) and in accordance with their existing management and control measures. The large pelagic fishery is thus managed by RFMOs (such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT), the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT). South Africa is a member of ICCAT and a co-operating non-member of IOTC and CCSBT. Although RFMO’s manage high seas fisheries, management recommendations and resolutions are implemented by South Africa through national legislation and permit conditions.
In South Africa, this fishery uses pelagic longline fishing gear which has a negligible habitat effect since they are not used near the bottom. However, a number of vulnerable species are caught as bycatch: Eleven species of seabird, four species of turtle and 20 species of shark have been confirmed incidentally caught by this fishery, many (8, all and 7 respectively) of which are considered threatened and fishing has been identified as the predominant cause for recent population declines. The South African fishery has implemented very good measures to decrease the incidental capture of seabirds, and preliminary results show that the level of seabird bycatch has reduced below the required level. Estimates of discards for the longline fishery are at 22%. Many of the world’s large predatory fish are considered over-fished and evidence from elsewhere suggests that decreases in top predator populations can have ramifications for the functioning of pelagic ecosystems. South Africa has a relatively good management system in place that addresses most relevant concerns. However, the management of vulnerable bycatch species especially sharks requires further attention. There is also a lack of strong management from RFMOs which is of concern given that this fishery relies on high seas stocks.
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Rather choose a green-listed alternative such as pole-caught tuna or queen mackerel. These alternatives have similar meaty, firm and rich flesh as local longline yellowfin tuna. Or if you don't want to cut local longline caught yellowfin tuna out of your diet completely, eat it on a special occasion rather than every time you eat out.