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Yellowfin Tuna

Thunnus albacares

  • Heather Patterson (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences)

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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
Commonwealth Indian Ocean IOTC, WTBF Transitional-depleting Spawning stock biomass, fishing mortality
Commonwealth Western and central Pacific Ocean ETBF, WCPFC Sustainable Spawning stock biomass, fishing mortality
ETBF
Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (CTH)
IOTC
Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (CTH)
WCPFC
Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (CTH)
WTBF
Western Tuna Billfish Fishery (CTH)
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Stock Structure

Yellowfin Tuna in the Indian Ocean, and western and central Pacific Ocean are considered to be two distinct biological stocks, which are managed under separate regional fisheries management organisations. In the Indian Ocean, although there is some evidence for stock structure that requires further investigation1, tagging studies have indicated substantial movement of Yellowfin Tuna, supporting the assumption of a single biological stock2. Currently, a single biological stock is considered to exist in the western and central Pacific Ocean3. However, a recent study has provided evidence of genetically distinct populations of Yellowfin Tuna at three sites in the Pacific Ocean4.Further and more detailed studies of Yellowfin Tuna stock structure are underway. The Indian Ocean biological stock falls under the jurisdiction of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission; and the Western and central Pacific Ocean stock falls under the jurisdiction of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. These two commissions are intergovernmental organisations established to manage a number of highly migratory fish species.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the biological stock level—Indian Ocean and Western and central Pacific Ocean.

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Stock Status

The temporal coverage of data used to determine stock status differs depending on the assessment, because of delays in reporting catch data to the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. Data for the Indian Ocean assessment that was used for management advice (multiple assessments were undertaken) were from 1950–20142. Data for the Pacific Ocean assessment were from 1952–20123.

Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean biological stock is fished by Australian fishers endorsed to fish in the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery (Commonwealth), and numerous other international jurisdictions. The assessments undertaken by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission take into account information from all jurisdictions.

In the Indian Ocean, the most recent assessment5 estimates that the biomass in 2014 of the biological stock was 23 per cent of unfished levels. The biological stock is not considered to be recruitment overfished6. However, the assessments estimated that fishing mortality was well above the level associated with maximum sustainable yield (MSY) (134 per cent of fishing mortality at MSY; range 102–167 per cent). This level of fishing mortality is likely to cause the biological stock to become recruitment overfished.

Based on the evidence provided above, the Indian Ocean biological stock is classified as transitional–depleting.

Western and central Pacific Ocean

The Western and central Pacific Ocean biological stock is fished by Australian fishers endorsed to fish in the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (Commonwealth), and numerous other international jurisdictions. The assessments undertaken for the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission take into account information from all jurisdictions.

In the western and central Pacific Ocean, the most recent assessment3 estimates that the 2012 biomass was 38 per cent of the unfished level. The biological stock is not considered to be recruitment overfished7. This assessment also estimated that current fishing mortality was below the level associated with MSY (72 per cent of mortality at MSY; range 58–90 per cent). This level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the biological stock to become recruitment overfished7.

Based on the evidence provided above, the Western and central Pacific Ocean biological stock is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Biology

Biology
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Yellowfin Tuna 9 years; ~1 800 mm FL  ~2 years; 1 000 mm FL

Yellowfin Tuna biology8

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Distributions

Distribution of reported commercial catch of Yellowfin Tuna

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Tables

Fishing methods
Commonwealth
Commercial
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Pelagic Longline
Pole and Line
Trolling
Gillnet
Purse Seine
Various
Recreational
Spearfishing
Hand Line, Hand Reel or Powered Reels
Management methods
Method Commonwealth
Commercial
Area restrictions
Catch limits
Gear restrictions
Individual transferable quota
Limited entry
Recreational
Bag limits
Boat limits
Active vessels
Commonwealth
39 in ETBF, 2 in WTBF
ETBF
Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (CTH)
WTBF
Western Tuna Billfish Fishery (CTH)
Catch
Commonwealth
Commercial 2.18Kt in ETBF, 406.96Kt in IOTC, 575.90Kt in WCPFC, 82.00t in WTBF
Indigenous Unknown
Recreational Unknown
ETBF
Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (CTH)
IOTC
Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (CTH)
WCPFC
Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (CTH)
WTBF
Western Tuna Billfish Fishery (CTH)

Recreationala,b Indigenousb,c Catchd

a The Australian Government does not manage recreational fishing in Commonwealth waters. Recreational fishing in Commonwealth waters is managed by the state or territory immediately adjacent to those waters, under its management regulations.

b Recreational and Indigenous fishing sectors in the Indian Ocean are Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria; recreational sectors in the Pacific Ocean are Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania. A tick indicates that a measure exists in one of these jurisdictions.

c The Australian Government does not manage non-commercial Indigenous fishing in Commonwealth waters, with the exception of the Torres Strait. In general, non-commercial Indigenous fishing in Commonwealth waters is managed by the state or territory immediately adjacent to those waters.

d Catches reported for the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission are for 2014, the most recent year available.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Yellowfin Tuna

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Effects of fishing on the marine environment

  • Following completion of ecological risk assessments (levels 1–3) in the Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery (Commonwealth) (WTBF), no species were identified as high risk9. In the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery (Commonwealth) (ETBF), a total of nine species were identified as being at high risk or precautionary high risk. This is the priority list of species for attention under the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery ecological risk management strategy; it includes two species of sunfish, four species of shark, two species of cetacean and one species of marine turtle10,11.
  • No target species, ecological communities or habitats were assessed to be at high risk from the effects of fishing in the ETBF or the WTBF9–11.
  • Australia implements regulations to minimise the environmental impact of fisheries for tuna and tuna-like species on pelagic ecosystems, specifically on seabirds, sea turtles and sharks12,13.
  • Australia has prohibited shark finning in longline fisheries managed by the Commonwealth and has also prohibited the use of wire leaders in these fisheries, to reduce fishery impacts on sharks12,13.
  • Both the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission14 and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission15 have passed conservation and management measures that are broadly consistent with each other and with Australia’s domestic requirements.
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Environmental effects on Yellowfin Tuna

  • The distribution and abundance of tuna can be affected by environmental factors16,17. For example, seasonal changes in the abundance of Bigeye Tuna and Yellowfin Tuna on the east coast of Australia are linked to the expansion and contraction of the East Australian Current18.
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References

  1. 1 Kolody, D, Grewe, P, Davies, C and Proctor, C 2013, Are Indian Ocean tuna populations assessed and managed at appropriate spatial scales? A brief review of the evidence and implications, working paper IOTC-2013-WPTT-15-13, Indian Ocean Tuna Commission Working Party on Tropical Tunas 15th session, Spain, 23–28 October 2013.
  2. 2 Langley, A 2015, Stock assessment of Yellowfin Tuna in the Indian Ocean using Stock Synthesis, working paper IOTC-2015-WPTT17-30, Indian Ocean Tuna Commission Working Party on Tropical Tunas 17th session, Montpellier, France, 23–28 October 2015.
  3. 3 Davies, N, Harley, S, Hampton, J and McKechnie, S 2014, Stock assessment of Yellowfin Tuna in the western and central Pacific Ocean, working paper WCPFC SC10-2014-/SA-WP-04, Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Scientific Committee 10th regular session, Republic of the Marshall Islands, 6–14 August 2014.
  4. 4 Grewe, P, Feutry, P, Hill, PL, Gunasekera, RM, Schaefer, KM, Itano, DG, Fuller, DW, Foster, SD and Davies, CR 2015, Evidence of discrete yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) populations demands rethink of management for this globally important resource, Scientific Reports, 5: doi 10.1038/srep16916.
  5. 5 Indian Ocean Tuna Commission 2015, Report of the eighteenth session of the Scientific Committee, Bali, Indonesia, 23–27 November 2015.
  6. 6 Williams, A, Patterson, H and Bath, A 2016, Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery, in H Patterson, R Noriega, L Georgeson, I Stobutzki and R Curtotti (ed.s), Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra, pp 404–420.
  7. 7 Larcombe, J, Williams, A and Savage, J 2016, Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery, in H Patterson, R Noriega, L Georgeson, I Stobutzki and R Curtotti (ed.s), Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra, pp 359–381.
  8. 8 Froese, R and Pauly, DE 2009, FishBase, version 06/2016, FishBase Consortium.
    www.fishbase.org
  9. 9 Zhou, S, Smith, T and Fuller, M 2007, Rapid quantitative risk assessment for fish species in selected Commonwealth fisheries, report for the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Canberra.
  10. 10 Zhou, S, Fuller, M and Smith, T 2009, Rapid quantitative risk assessment for fish species in seven Commonwealth fisheries, report for the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Canberra.
  11. 11 Australian Fisheries Management Authority 2009, Residual risk assessment of the level 2 ecological risk assessment: species results, report for the Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery, AFMA, Canberra.
  12. 12 Australian Fisheries Management Authority 2016, Eastern Tuna and Billfish Fishery Management Arrangements Booklet: 2016 Fishing Season, AFMA, Canberra.
  13. 13 Australian Fisheries Management Authority 2016, Western Tuna and Billfish Fishery Managements Arrangements Booklet: 2016 Fishing Season, AFMA, Canberra.
  14. 14 Indian Ocean Tuna Commission 2016, Compendium of active conservation and management measures for the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, 27 September 2016, IOTC Seychelles.
  15. 15 Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission 2016, Conservation and Management Measures (CMMs) and Resolutions of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), WCPFC, Federated States of Micronesia.
  16. 16 Hobday, AJ and Young, J 2008, Pelagic fisheries, in AJ Hobday, ES Poloczanska and RJ Matear (ed.s), Implications of climate change for Australian fisheries and aquaculture: a preliminary assessment, report to the Department of Climate Change, Canberra.
  17. 17 Lehodey, P, Hampton, J, Brill, RW, Nicol, S, Senina, I, Calmettes, B, Portner, HO, Bopp, L, Ilyina, T, Bell, JD and Sibert, J 2011, Vulnerability of oceanic fisheries in the tropical Pacific to climate change, in JD Bell, AJ Johnson and AJ Hobday (ed.s), Vulnerability of tropical Pacific fisheries and aquaculture to climate change, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Noumea, New Caledonia, pp 433–492.
  18. 18 Campbell, RA 1999, Long term trends in yellowfin tuna abundance in the south-west Pacific: with an emphasis on the eastern Australian Fishing Zone, paper presented at the 11th meeting of the Standing Committee on Tunas and Billfish, 30 May–6 June 1998, Honolulu, USA.​

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