Albacore Tuna

(Thunnus alalunga)

Albakoor, Albacore, Longfin tunny, Longfin tuna, Langvin tuna

1. What is it?

Albacore tuna (Thunnus alalunga) are highly migratory fish found in both the subtropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans and to some extent in the Mediterranean Sea. They are large fish with lengths of up to 140cm and can weigh up to 45kg. Currently, the Atlantic and Indian Ocean stock is classified as overfished and the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) limit was decreased in an attempt to increase stock levels to a more sustainable level. Albacore tuna are listed as Near Threatened on IUCN’s list for threatened species.

2. How was it caught or farmed?

Pelagic longline

Albacore tuna are caught in the South African pelagic longline fishery for tuna and swordfish. Pelagic longlines consists of a double-line system suspended at different depths covered in baited hooks and which are several kilometers long. Bycatches are a significant issue in the fishery. There are bycatches of seabirds, fish, sharks and turtles, many of which are listed as vulnerable and the fishing pressure may affect their population rates significantly. While recent reports showed that observed bycatch and discard rates in the tuna sector is low, little is known regarding bycatch and discard rates in the swordfish sector.

Pole & line

Albacore tuna are caught using pole fishing or polling. In this type of fishing, rigid poles (2-3 meters) are attached to a feathered jig containing a barbless hook attached by a short piece of line. This fishery contains 191 vessels making it one of the largest pelagic fisheries in South Africa. Fishing operations have very little impact on the surrounding habitat or species. Accidental catches of birds and sharks occur in very low amounts and in most cases result in the release of the individual back into the ocean.

3. Where is it from?

Pole & line

Albacore tuna are fished in waters up to 1000 km off south and west coast of South Africa and Namibia from November to May each year. Due to its highly migratory nature, the stock is managed by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) which allocates a portion of the total global catch for South Africa each year. Management in South Africa is regulated by Total Allowable Effort (TAE) which limits the number of boats and fishers allowed to fish. Management in South Africa is effective however management by ICCAT is not always strong which may influence the stock negatively in the future.

Pelagic longline

Albacore tuna are harvested in South Africa from the Atlantic and Indian Ocean. Due to its migratory nature and high demand skipjack stocks are managed by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs). The Atlantic Ocean component is managed by International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) whilst the India Ocean component is managed by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC). South Africa is a member of ICCAT and a cooperating non – member of IOTC. Countries that have accepted the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement or are members of these RFMOs will receive recommendations and resolutions including a number of legislative and permit conditions to regulate tuna stocks. The member countries themselves are responsible for ensuring these recommendations and regulations are adapted and enforced. Management in South Africa is effective however management by ICCAT and IOTC is not always strong which may influence the stock negatively in the future.