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This paper reviews historical trends of the catches of the major commercial species (albacore, bigeye, bluefin, skipjack and yellowfin) of tunas. The total world catch of these species has increased during the last 50 years (from 0.4 to 3.9 million tonnes), but the pattern of increase has varied among species, oceans and fishing gears. The causes of those variations are analysed in this paper. In the world catch, the Pacific Ocean has been predominant throughout. In recent years catches from the Indian Ocean have exceeded those from the Atlantic. Skipjack and yellowfin catches have shown a rapid increase.
Bigeye catches have also shown 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 baitboat fishery took the greatest proportion of the total catches during the
1950s. However, the catch of the purse-seine fishery became significant in the late 1950s and dominant by 1990. Longline catches started picking up in the late 1950s, increased until the 1990s and thereafter declined.

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