Impacts of tuna fishing | WWF

Impacts of tuna fishing

All over the world, the demand for tuna is rising at a fast pace. This spurs fishermen, processors, suppliers and retailers to meet market demand and puts enormous pressure on the highly endangered and sometimes already collapsed marine ecosystems and fish populations.
Tuna are fished in over 70 countries worldwide and marketed in fresh, frozen or canned form. 

World tuna catches have been increasing constantly and rapidly with world canned (processed) tuna. New gear technologies such as purse seine nets, a predominant fishing gear, are responsible for 70% of the world tuna catches with more than 4 million tonnes catches annually. The Western and Central Pacific Ocean supports the largest tuna fishery of the world.

Consumption of fresh and frozen tuna remains important and has even increased, especially in North America. In particular bigeye, yellowfin and bluefin tuna are very popular with sushi fans. Until the late 1990s, the sushi market was largely dominated by Japan and the majority of consumption still occurs there.

However, due to the globalization of our food culture and healthy food preference, fresh tuna in sushi restaurants and supermarkets have expanded worldwide, especially to the US and the European Union.

Current status:
  1. Skipjack: This species, the main supply of the canned market, is generally heatlhy due to its resilient biology. But the lack of effective management and an increasing number of vessels catching this species means that the status of the skipjack tuna stock can easily slip.
  2. Albacore, yellowfin and bigeye are further down the slippery slope of depletion if adequate management measures are not rapidly put in place. For example, yellowfin and albacore species are all currently being overfished in the Indian ocean.
  3. The bluefin tuna has almost been overfished to the point of extinction. 
Because of their high market value, tuna are amongst the "most wanted" fish for those fishing illegally.

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.

Find out what more you can do .... 

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