Yellowfin Tuna

(Thunnus albacares)

Yellowfin tuna, Yellowfin tunny, Geelvin tuna, Geelvin-tuna

1. What is it?

Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) are relatively long-lived, migratory fish found in open waters that often form mixed schools with other species of tuna. It is highly valued for sashimi and therefore often served in restaurants. Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna is considered overfished as fishing mortality is above the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) levels.

2. How was it caught or farmed?

South Africa - Pole & line

Yellowfin 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.

South Africa - Pelagic longline

Yellowfin tuna is harvested by South Africa in the Indian Ocean and occasionally from the Atlantic Ocean. Due to its migratory nature and demand yellowfin tuna are managed by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs). The India Ocean component is managed by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) which assigns recommendations and various regulations to its members. Member countries or co-operating non-member countries are then responsible for ensuring the implementation and adaptation of the recommended quotas and regulations. Management of the Indian Ocean component is considered to be relatively ineffective. IOTC does not mandate catch limits or other stringent conservation measures although it is in the process of developing a quota allocation for tuna species in the region.

Imported - Pole & line

Yellowfin 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. 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?

South Africa - Pole & line

Yellowfin tuna is caught in the open waters of the Indian Ocean. Due to its highly migratory nature the stock is managed by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) which allocates a portion of the total global TAC for South Africa each year. Management in South Africa is regulated by the Total Allowable Effort (TAE) which limits the number of boats allowed to fish and the amount of tuna each boat is allowed to catch. Management in South Africa is considered to be effective however, management by IOTC is not always strong which may influence the stock negatively in the future.

South Africa - Pelagic longline

Yellowfin tuna mainly 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.

Imported - Pole & line

Yellowfin tuna are caught in the open waters of the Indian Ocean and imported from Indonesia into South Africa. Due to its highly migratory nature the stock is managed by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission ( IOTC) which allocates a portion of the total global TAC to each member/ participating non-member country each year. Management in IOTC is considered to be partly effective due to challenges surrounding implementation of recommendations in member/participating countries and ongoing concerns regarding Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.