Tuna, Bigeye - Imported
Scientific nameThunnus obesus
Fishing methodPelagic longline
Area of captureAtlantic and Indian Oceans
SummaryBigeye tuna (Thunnus obesus) inhabit the tropical and subtropical waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans in waters down to around 300 m. Worldwide, bigeye is caught primarily in the Pacific Ocean (57%), followed by the Indian (26%) and Atlantic Oceans (17%).
In the Indian Ocean, bigeye tunas have been caught by industrial longline fleets since the early 1950s. Biomass trajectories indicate that the spawning stock biomass has been declining since the late 1970s. Similarly, the fishing mortality has been increasing steadily with catches in recent years exceeding the estimated maximum sustainable yield. Indian Ocean Bigeye tuna is considered fully fished, but is on the brink of suffering overfishing. Atlantic Bigeye tuna was last assessed in 2007. This assessment indicated that the stock declined rapidly during the 1990s due to the large catches made then and that, in recent years, it has stabilised at around or below sustainable levels in response to a large reduction in catches. While Atlantic Bigeye is no longer considered overfished and overfishing is not likely to be currently occurring, it remains a species of concern internationally given underreporting of landings.
As a coastal state that has ratified the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, South Africa is obliged to develop and manage a fishery for large pelagic species in cooperation with the relevant Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) and in accordance with their existing management and control measures. The large pelagic fishery is thus managed by RFMOs (such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT), the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT). South Africa is a member of ICCAT and a co-operating non-member of IOTC and CCSBT. Although RFMO’s manage high seas fisheries, management recommendations and resolutions are implemented by South Africa through national legislation and permit conditions. However, there is a lack of strong management from RFMOs which is of concern given that this fishery relies on high seas stocks.
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