Albacore usually weighs 4–15 kg, with a length of 40–90 cm (Figure 1c). This is a cosmopolitan fish, occurring in tropical waters of all oceans. At least two stocks (northern and southern) exist in both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, with little or no interchange across the warm equatorial waters. The northwest Pacific is the most important fishing area, followed by the northeast Atlantic and Eastern Central Pacific. The landings of this species varied between 180 000 and 225 000 tonnes from 1975 to 1988, but a general decline in annual production is evident. Japan and Taiwan each account for approximately one-third of the world’s annual albacore production. Most of the albacore production is canned in the USA as solid white meat tuna. The USA is a major importer, averaging 70 000 tonnes annually. Some albacore is sold as fresh and canned fish and consumed in local markets in France and Spain.
The Fisheries for Tunas in the Eastern Pacific Ocean
Trolling gear, which is used mainly to catch albacore, is described in detail by Scofield (1956) and Sainsbury (1996). Lines with artificial lures are towed behind the vessel, and when a fish strikes one of the lures it is brought aboard the boat with the assistance of a hydraulically powered gurdy. Most trolling vessels also fish for Pacific salmon, Oncorhynchus spp. Most of the catch of albacore in the northern EPO is taken by trolling (Table 2.5), whereas in the southern EPO most of the catch is taken by longline gear
Tuna Economics and Markets
Tuna Supply from the Wild Fishery
From a commercial point of view, the most relevant tuna species are skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis), albacore, or longfin tuna (Thunnus alalunga), yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares, YFT), bigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus), southern bluefin tuna (Thunnus maccoyii SBFT), Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus Orientalis, PBFT), and Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus, ABFT). The destination, consumption, and status of conservation vary significantly across species. The bluefin tuna is the most appreciated commodity in the sashimi market and are the fisheries suffering the highest pressure at present. The catches of bluefin tuna are subjected to quotas, and their trade is monitored and certified.
According to the latest FAO fishery databases (FAO, 2015), world production of the main commercial tuna species surpassed 4 million tons in 1999 and reached 4.6 million tons in 2011. Wild catches represent 96.7% of the total supply. These figures indicate an increase of 1,019.5% since the earliest statistics of 1950, but only 12.5% since 2000. Issues of overfishing and conservation measures are behind the stagnation in the growth of the tuna fishery production in the new century, and these may be better understood when analyzing the evolution in the catches of the different species (Figure 14.1). Bluefin species represent 1% of global catches but have a higher value and are the most severely overexploited of all tunas, with a decrease in catches of 49.2% since 2000. Other species with falling production in the first decade of the century were YFT (−2.1%) and bigeye (−16.9%). These species represent 27.2% and 8.5% of total tuna catches. Albacore catches, representing 5.2% of total fishery supply, increased in output by 8.4%. Finally, skipjack, which is the major species in terms of volume, accounting for 58% of the total supply of wild tuna, have increased in catches by 31.6% between 2000 and 2011.