FAO FISHERIES TECHNICAL PAPER 467
Historical trends of tuna
FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS
Trap fishing near Gibraltar. Courtesy of P. Miyake
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This paper reviews historical trends (mostly 1950-2000) of the catches of the major commercial species of tunas in the world (albacore, bigeye, bluefin, skipjack, and yellowfin). The total world catch of these species has increased continuously and almost tenfold during the last 50 years (from 0.4 to 3.9 million metric tons), but the pattern of increase has varied among species, oceans and fishing gears. The causes of those variations are, in most cases, interpretable, and are analysed as much as possible in this paper.
In world catch data, the Pacific Ocean has been predominant throughout. The rate of increase for the Atlantic catch has been much slower than those of the other oceans, and in fact the catches from of the Indian Ocean have exceeded those of the Atlantic since 1998. Currently the proportions of the total catch are about 15, 20 and 65 percent for the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, respectively.
Since the late 1960s, by far the largest quantities taken have been skipjack, followed by yellowfin. The catches of both species show rapid increase, but that of yellowfin seems to have levelled off in the 1990s at 1 to 1.2 million tonnes (over 25 percent of the total), while the skipjack catch is still growing, reaching a record of 2 million tonnes (almost 50 percent of the total) in 1999. Bigeye catches also showed a constant increase, but at a lower level. The catches of albacore, bluefin and southern bluefin tunas have been stable or have decreased in recent years.
The catch of the purse-seine fishery, which targets mostly yellowfin and skipjack, became significant only in the late 1950s, and increased at an accelerated rate until 1990. The baitboat fishery took the greatest proportion of the total catches during the 1950s, but was overtaken by longline catches in the 1960s; however, baitboat catch showed another sharp increase in the 1970s. Longline catches started picking up in the late 1950s, increased gradually until 1990, then showed a relatively sharp increase until 1993 and thereafter declined. Longliners used to target yellowfin and albacore, but most of the large-scale longliners now target bluefin, southern bluefin and, most importantly in terms of quantity, bigeye tuna.
Japanese catches are by far the largest, and the majority of these are from the Pacific. United States catches were quite stable until the late 1960s, started increasing in the early 1970s, and eventually stabilized at about 200 000 tonnes. Longliners from other Asian nations showed good increases in the 1960s and 1970s. In recent years, many new players, including a large number of European countries with purse-seine fisheries, have become very important.
Miyake, M.P.; Miyabe, N.; Nakano, H.
Historical trends of tuna catches in the world.
FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 467. Rome, FAO. 2004. 74p.
© FAO 2004
Preparation of this document
Acronyms and codes
1. DEVELOPMENT OF WORLD TUNA FISHERIES
1.1 Brief review of development of tuna fisheries of the world
1.2 Data sources and preparation
1.3 General trends
1.4 Catch by species
1.5 Catch by fishing gear
1.6 Catches by country
2. DEVELOPMENT OF THE ATLANTIC TUNA FISHERIES
2.1 Data sources and preparation
2.2 General overview
2.4 Atlantic bluefin tuna
2.5 Bigeye tuna
2.6 Skipjack tuna
2.7 Yellowfin tuna
3. DEVELOPMENT OF THE INDIAN OCEAN TUNA FISHERIES
3.1 Data sources and preparation
3.2 General overview
3.4 Bigeye tuna
3.5 Skipjack tuna
3.6 Yellowfin tuna
4. DEVELOPMENT OF THE PACIFIC TUNA FISHERIES
4.1 Data sources and preparation
4.2 General trends
4.4 Pacific bluefin tuna
4.5 Bigeye tuna
4.6 Skipjack tuna
4.7 Yellowfin tuna
5. DEVELOPMENT OF SOUTHERN BLUEFIN TUNA FISHERIES
5.1 General overview
5.2 Catch by fishing gears
5.3 Catches by country
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