/ ©: WWF-Canon

Sustainable Tuna

Tuna are amongst the most commercially valuable fish on Earth. But as demand for the species has skyrocketed, some tuna stocks are now fully exploited or overfished. Working with WWF, some companies are now showing the way to catch this fish without exploiting it to extinction.
Tuna are fished in over 70 countries worldwide and marketed in fresh, frozen or canned form. Tuna were once a low value substitute for other fish such as salmon and sardines.

But since the 1960s, this situation has drastically changed. World tuna catches have been increasing constantly and rapidly with world canned (processed) tuna incrementing from 200,000 tonnes in the 1970s to more then 1 million tonnes only 10 years ago.

Catches of tuna are rising, but there is evidence that wild populations are not replenishing fast enough for this trend to continue.

Between 1940 and the mid-1960s, the annual global catch of the 5 principal market species of tunas rose from about 300,000 tonnes to about 1 million tonne. With the development of purse-seine nets, now the predominant gear, catches have risen to more than 4 million tonnes annually during the last few years.

Overfished  Current status of the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna, Pacific Ocean (eastern and western) bigeye tuna, and North Atlantic albacore tuna (source: ISSF)

WWF approach

We collaborate with partners to push market demand for sustainable seafood and aid seafood producers to strive towards sustainable fishing and responsible procurement practices.

As such, WWF helps to assess company supply chains and, where appropriate, achieving credible certification such as that of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a system for recognizing sustainably caught seafood.

WWF Targets

2020: 75% of tuna catches from stocks of all seven principle market tuna species (skipjack, yellowfin, bigeye, albacore, Atlantic bluefin, Pacific bluefin and southern bluefin tuna) worldwide are qualified for certification in accordance with MSC standards.
 

Progress

12.9% of global tuna caught sustainably and MSC certified (January 2014)
► Read more about how WWF works with the tuna industry
How can we move production to more sustainable practices? Find out about WWF's Market Transformation Initiative ►

Better Production for a Living Planet

 / ©: WWF

CASE STUDY: MANAGING SUSTAINABLE STOCKS

 / ©: Juergen Freund/WWF-Canon
Yellow fin tuna in fish market/Philippines
© Juergen Freund/WWF-Canon
One of the key issues in maintaining healthy tuna stocks is a lack of effective management. To address this, in 2009 WWF joined with marine scientists and key players in the tuna processing industry to form the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF).

The ISSF advocates for effective regional management structures, and tuna fisheries move towards Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification. The eight companies that were founding members together controlled more than half the global canned tuna market.

This gave the organisation considerable clout – which it used immediately. In April 2009 ISSF announced that its members would stop buying bigeye tuna from the eastern Pacific unless the IATTC agreed to science-based conservation measures that would allow the stock to recover.

► READ FULL CASE STUDY

CONTEXT

Threats
  • Tuna are prone to overfishing, with some stocks approaching complete depletion;
  • Unsustainable bycatch of non-target species, many of which have high conservation and ecosystem value, including sea turtles, sharks and small cetaceans.

Opportunities

  • Improved regional fisheries management is critical to strengthening the governance of marine ecosystems;
  • Poverty alleviation by transforming the economies of tuna fishing in the Indian and Pacific Oceans;
  • Rights-based management and designing, financing and implementing international traceability systems can enhance the value of sustainable fishing practices and create incentives for fishers.

Be part of the solution

► Fish traders, processors, and retailers can stimulate more transparency in fisheries by selectively buying seafood products from fisheries with low or no bycatch, and that have been certified according to the standards of the MSC.

Consumers can search for MSC-certified products to find seafood caught and/or processed by companies that have taken steps to reduce their negative impacts on the marine environment.
  •  / ©: International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF)
    The International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) undertakes science-based initiatives for the longterm conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks, reducing bycatch and promoting ecosystem health. iss-foundation.org
  •  / ©: MSC
    The Marine Stewardship Council contributes to the health of the world’s oceans by recognizing and rewarding sustainable fishing practices. msc.org

Priority Countries

  • Production oceans
    Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocea, Mediterranean Sea

    Markets
    Japan, USA, EU

Trends

  • Demand drivers
    Income, consumption, globalization

    Future focus for success
    Expand tuna conservation to an ocean-wide approach moving beyond priority regions like Coastal East Africa (Indian Ocean) and Coral Triangle (western Pacific). Ramp up engagement with actors on all levels.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Donate to WWF

Your support will help us build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.