Recent developments in the tuna industry


Recent developments in the
tuna industry

Stocks, fisheries, management, processing,
trade and markets

Rome, 2010

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© FAO 2010

Miyake, M.; Guillotreau, P.; Sun, C-H; Ishimura, G.
Recent developments in the tuna industry: stocks, fisheries, management, processing, trade and markets.
FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper. No. 543. Rome, FAO. 2010. 125p.


This paper provides an updated review of world tuna fisheries. Previous studies (Miyake et al., 2004) discussed the historical development of tuna fisheries, described current world tuna fisheries, and explained the technological developments that have affected fishing operations. The current paper expands the discussion to include socioeconomic aspects of the tuna industry as a whole, specifically including recent changes in processing, trade, marketing and consumer preferences.

The first half of the paper introduces the conditions under which the studies were made and the data sources. It first provides caveats and assumptions which are designed to prevent misunderstanding or misinterpretation when using the data. It then reviews the world tuna stock status based on the results of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) scientific reviews. Even though the biomass of most of the world抯 tuna stocks is generally above but close to the reference point, for a few stocks fishing mortality is above the maximum sustainable yield level indicating that the stock is being overfished. World tuna fisheries (mostly longline, purse seine and baitboat [pole-and-line] fisheries) are reviewed from the standpoint of catches, technological developments and economics. Finally, tuna management measures taken by RFMOs are reviewed, including those used to mitigate bycatch. Gear and species interactions are specifically discussed in terms of allocations of the stocks between fisheries.

The second half of the paper analyses tuna trade, processing, markets, consumption, price and profits for sashimi, fresh tuna steak, katsuobushi (dried skipjack stick) and canned tuna. The marketing of sashimi has changed very substantially from an exclusive Japanese market to a global one. The marketing system is also changing, because instead of being sold in market auctions, entire catches are now bought by one dealer and sold to large supermarkets or other retailers. This trend has had a clear impact on price and has resulted in the reduction of landing values. In the fresh and frozen steak tuna industry, in general, the price of tuna per unit weight is far higher than for canned materials. Since the 1960s, the production of, and demand and market for, canned tuna has increased very rapidly, accompanied by the rapid development of purse seine fisheries in tropical waters. The largest consumer of canned tuna in the 1970s was by far the United States of America, but these levels have been exceeded by European Union markets in the last two decades. The relative importance of the major markets (the United States, the European Union and Japan) has been continuously declining as a percentage of the world market. These trends have been accompanied by the concentration of capital. Another major change has involved the relocation of tuna factories from developed countries to areas closer to raw materials. This also helped the industry by cutting labour and transshipment costs, and facilitated flexible export marketing. Production was formerly dominated by the United States but as production has declined, Thailand has become the top producer in the late 1990s, followed by Spain, as a result of newly developed canning materials in the form of loins.

In conclusion, because of the recent rapid increase in competition among fisheries, species, industries and even products (sashimi/fresh tuna vs. canned), the most important and most urgent issue is how to manage and allocate tuna resources among these competitors (e.g. using fishing capacity control measures and/or catch allocations). In order to achieve such an objective it is imperative that socio-economic and ecological considerations are integrated into decision-making processes alongside capacity and allocation issues. This study does not address the broad socio-economic importance of the tuna industry to the countries in which it operates, but this type of research will be necessary in future in order to solve current fishery management problems.


PART 1  (download - 691 kb)

Preparation of this document
Abbreviations and acronyms
Executive summary

1. Introduction

2. Definitions and sources

3. Tuna stock conditions and scientific recommendations

3.1 Definitions
3.2 Atlantic Ocean
3.3 Pacific Ocean
3.4 Indian Ocean

4. Fisheries

4.1 Overview of the world’s tuna fisheries

4.1.1 Catch data sources and uncertainties
4.1.2 Trends in the world tuna catches

4.2 Changes in fisheries primarily related to technological developments

4.2.1 Historical changes and their causes
4.2.2 General review of recent changes
4.2.3 Longline fisheries
4.2.4 Baitboat fisheries
4.2.5 Purse seine fisheries
4.2.6 Development of FADs and changes in target species
4.2.7 Interactions between fishing gears and species
4.2.8 The development of tuna farming

4.3 Operating costs

4.3.1 Fuel price
4.3.2 Case study 1: Japanese distant water longline and baitboat fisheries
4.3.3 Case study 2: Japanese offshore longline fleet
4.3.4 Case study 3: Seychelles-based European purse seine fleet
4.3.5 Case study 4: Japanese distant-water purse seine fleet
4.3.6 Comparisons of the balance between operating cost and revenue among various fleets

5. Management-related issues influencing tuna fisheries

5.1 Management measures and compliance

5.1.1 Atlantic Ocean
5.1.2 Pacific Ocean
5.1.3 Indian Ocean
5.1.4 General management measures
5.1.5 Fishing capacity
5.1.6 IUU problems and trade measures

5.2 Ecosystem considerations – bycatch issues

5.2.1 Sharks
5.2.2 Sea turtles
5.2.3 Seabirds
5.2.4 Small tunas

PART 2  (download - 667 kb)

6. Trade, processing, markets and consumption

6.1 Data uncertainties in trade, processing and consumption

6.2 Sashimi industry

6.2.1 Some history and facts on sashimi culture
6.2.2 Supplies for sashimi (or fresh fish market)
6.2.3 Processing for sashimi
6.2.4 Marketing system and price-making mechanism for sashimi products
6.2.5 Sashimi consumption
6.2.6 Sashimi markets

6.3 Fresh tuna industry, including steak but excluding sashimi

6.3.1 Fresh tuna consumption in Japan
6.3.2 Fresh tuna consumption in Europe, including frozen products and sashimi
6.3.3 Fresh tuna consumption in North America, including sashimi products

6.4 Special skipjack products (katsuobushi and powders)

6.5 Canning industry

6.5.1 Brief history
6.5.2 Development of the modern canning industry and its globalization
6.5.3 The supply of tuna for the canning industry and changes in processing methods
6.5.4 Concentration of the canning industry
6.5.5 World production increase
6.5.6 World trade in canned products
6.5.7 Price and market demand for canned products

7. Trade and consumer preferences 111

7.1 Restriction on trade
7.2 Effects of media and public campaigns on the market
7.3 Consumer tendencies and preference regarding sustainability

8. Discussion

9. Conclusions on the future of the tuna industry

10. References