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© Jurgen Freund / WWF
All about tuna

You’ve done it a thousand times--cracked open a tuna can or tucked into a tuna sandwich.

But behind these simple acts repeated daily millions of times around the world, lies the tragic story of one of the most amazing, valuable and least understood oceanic fishes.

Now read on.



Ever wondered what tuna tagging is all about and how it works? Here’s a sneak peek into what went behind WWF's efforts to gather much needed data on tuna in the Coral Triangle. Follow handline tuna fishers in the Philippines to learn more about this amazing species!


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Find out what is the issue with tuna in less than 3 minutes

Indulge in seafood that isn't on the brink of extinction, or that isn't caught using unsustainable practices. Check out the following seafood guides and do your bit to keep oceans and reefs healthy:

» Hong Kong Seafood Guide 
» Indonesia Seafood Guide 
» Malaysia Seafood Guide 
» Singapore Seafood Guide

Also check out these restaurants in Singapore and Hong Kong which have said no to serving shark fin soup.

Meet the tuna


  • Torpedo-like, built for speed, can accelerate faster than a Porsche, reaching up to 70 Km/h
  • Can dive down to 1,000m in depth
  • Able to maintain body temperature above the temperature of ambient seawater
  • Has a natural camouflage to avoid being seen from above and below
  • The perfect swimmers--can retract dorsal and pectoral fins into slots to reduce swimming drag
  • Can weigh up to 450kg
  • Can change their color--sometimes they can be an iridescent blue, other times just shimmering white
  • Bluefin larvae have a 1 in 40 million chance of reaching adulthood
  • Increasingly sought out by consumers, and hence increasingly valuable

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Tuna in the Coral Triangle

Caught, traded, shipped and eaten around the world, tuna is an irreplaceable resource for developed and developing countries globally. 

The Coral Triangle is a spawning and nursery ground for southern bluefin, bigeye, yellowfin, skipjack and albacore tunas from the Indian, Southern and Pacific oceans, where most of the world's tuna catch occurs.

► Tuna taxonomy & ecology [UN Food & Agriculture Organization]
► Tuna fisheries & utilization  [UN Food & Agriculture Organization]
► WWF Tuna Think Tank: a host of solutions to solve the tuna crisis

Demand sky-rocketting, fishing intensifying

The fishing industry is scrambling to supply growing international demand for tuna.

This puts more pressure on heavily-fished stocks, such as yellowfin tuna in the Western and Central and Indian oceans as fleets move in from depleted fishing areas. If the current level of fishing continues or increases, these stocks will collapse.

► INFOGRAPHIC: Tuna fishing in the Pacific [Pew Environment]
► REPORT: South West Pacific Longline Caught Albacore: Going, Going, Gone?
► MAP & DATA: State of world tuna fishery [UN Food & Agriculture Organization]

Problems with how much we fish, and how we do it

It is increasingly obvious that too many boats are chasing fewer and fewer fish.

Damaging fishing practices and unsustainable fishing equipment are putting tuna species at risk, and ultimately industry and small fishers will also pay the price.

One potentially devastating tactic involves Fish Aggregating Devices (FAD), floating structures placed by fishers to attract potential catch. When sufficient numbers of fish have aggregated around these FADs, fishing boats move in and hoard in the catch.

The problem is that fish is indiscriminately caught, including fish that have little or no commercial value, or even threatened species such as marine turtles and sharks.

And with every juvenile fish that is caught before it has had a chance to reproduce, the fish population loses an opportunity to replenish itself.


In early 2012, a 269 Kg tuna was bought for US$736,00 by a restaurant in Japan.


There is no shortage of ideas to stop the overexploitation of tuna at sea. But translating these ideas is challenging as there are so many vested interests in the fisheries industry.

One option—among many others—is to turn Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) into Tourists Aggregating Devices (TADs). The problem with FADs, devices introduced in the 1990s to lure fish to one place for an easier catch, is that they herd in more juveniles than adult fish, leading to the problem described in the previous section.

Rather than bringing in fishing boats, TADs attract tourists seeking the unique experience of swimming with tuna! This activity would generate income for local tourism operators and, most importantly, would be sustainable since no tuna would actually get caught. Such an approach has already worked elsewhere in the world.  

Solutions in practice

In the face of large-scale commercial fishing and depleted stocks, the handline tuna fishermen of Lagonoy Bay in the Philippines can still dream of a better life, thanks to institutionalized support for their traditional ways.

Check out our related feature article >
Tunas of the Coral Triangle
© [click to enlarge] © Les Hata/SPC 2009