Yellowfin tuna

Thunnus albacares

Common Name(s)

English: Yellowfin Tuna, Allison's Tuna, Pacific Long-tailed Tuna, Yellowfinned Albacore ; French: Albacore, Grand Fouet, Thon Jaune ; Spanish: Albacora, Aleta Amarilla

Medium Risk

Stable, not optimal but not poor status. AND Actions identified to reduce environmental impact and/or improve management or stock status. May be data deficient with stable catches.

High Risk

No data available OR Proven poor fishery status and/or high risk of decline to poor status without appropriate management / ineffective management and/or high environmental impact. If species is listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered then stop sourcing.

Traditional Chinese

黃鰭吞拿魚, 'Wong Kei Tun Na Yu'

Simplified Chinese









Cá bò vang




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Date of Assessments

July 2020

Peer Reviewer


Assessment Organisation

The University of Hong Kong


Fisheries targeting yellowfin tuna occur all year around.



  • Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) is found worldwide in tropical and subtropical seas. T. albacares’ geographic limits are from 45°- 50° N and South, although in the Pacific they occur mainly from 20° N and South.
  • Typical average size at maturity ranges between 85 – 108cm (ISSF 2020). Smallest mature individuals in the Pacific off the Philippines and Central America are in the 50–60 cm size group at an age of 12–15 months. Length at 50% maturity in the eastern Pacific was 69 cm for males and 92 cm for females corresponding to an age of 2.1 years (Schaefer 1998).
  • Yellowfin tuna are highly fecund and can spawn year-round over a wide area of the tropical and subtropical oceans, providing environmental conditions (such as water temperature and forage availability) are suitable.
  • This species schools primarily by size, either in monospecific or multi-species groups. Larger fish frequently school with porpoises and are also associated with floating debris and other objects.
  • T. albacares feeds on fishes, crustaceans and squids. Like all tunas, their body shape is particularly adapted for speed, enabling them to pursue and capture fast-moving baitfish such as flying fish, sauries, and mackerel.
  • In the Indian Ocean, longevity is at least seven years (Romanov and Korotkova 1988), although very few individuals live past four years. Estimated maximum age in the Eastern Pacific is 4.8 years (Wild 1986), in the Western Pacific 6.5 years (Lehodey and Leroy 1999), and in the Atlantic eight years (IGFA 2001).
  • Maximum size can be in excess of 200 cm fork length (FL).
  • Global catch of yellowfin tuna in 2018 was over 1.4 million tonnes (ISSF 2020).
  • Yellowfin tuna are caught in commercial fisheries around the world, and are the second most important species of tuna for canning (after skipjack tuna).
  • Four stocks are assessed and managed by the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs): Atlantic Ocean, Eastern Pacific, Western Pacific and Indian Ocean.
  • The management effectiveness of the RFMOs is mixed, and Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing remains a significant risk in many regions.
  • Mixed schools of small yellowfin, and skipjack tuna, in particular, are commonplace. They are often associated with various species of dolphins or porpoises, as well as with larger marine creatures such as whales and whale sharks. They also associate with drifting flotsam such as logs and pallets.
  • This species is primarily caught by the purse-seine fishery, but is also taken by longlines and pole-and-line fisheries. Some modern tuna seiners have a capacity up to 2,000 metric tons (2,000 long tons; 2,200 short tons), reach speeds of over 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph), and carry multiple spotting helicopters.

Purse seine

Purse seine nets are used as walls to encircle fish. After the fish are surrounded, the bottom end of the purse seine net is pulled up and closed to form a bag that traps the fish. Schooling fish such as sardine, salmon and yellowfin tuna are caught by this method. Can be unselective, particularly if used alongside Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs), where sharks, rays, turtles, dolphins and juvenile tuna can be caught.

Pelagic longline

Longlining, as the name suggests, involves long fishing lines which can be as long as 100 kilometres. Attached to them are shorter lines with baited hook tied at fixed intervals. Longlines can be set at different depths to catch different species. Pelagic longline is where the lines are set near the surface of the water to catch open water fish such as bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna and swordfish. Bycatch is a major environmental issue in the longline fishery, especially impacting billfish, sea turtles, pelagic sharks, and seabirds.

Pole and line

Hook and line is one of the best methods of fishing with regards to sustainability. This can involve one person and a rod, or alternatively using a basic winch with a line of hooks. The hook and line fishing method has little impact on the surrounding environment and the catch can be selective. For example, any fish too small, or not the right species can be placed back into the water, with limited harm.

  • Evidence of the catch certificate showing the following:
    • latin species name,
    • country sea area / RFMO area,
    • vessel flag,
    • name of vessel,
    • Unique Vessel Identifier,
    • capture method,
    • landing port
  • Is the fishery in a fishery improvement project?



  • Yellowfin tuna caught in the Western and Central Pacific (WCP) can be considered to be a medium risk.
  • The WCP yellowfin tuna stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. Most of the catches are taken from the tropical region where the stock is considered fully exploited and there is little or no room for increased fishing pressure in this region.
  • Provisional yellowfin catches in the WCP in 2018 were about 648,100 tonnes, a 2% decrease from 2017.
  • The main fishing gear is purse seine (61% of the catch). Twenty-one percent of the catches are also taken by a number of mixed gears in the Philippines and Indonesia, and 14% by long-liners.
  • Fisheries targeting this stock are mainly managed through the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
  • Management measures are in place, though there are shortcomings, including high numbers of juvenile tuna caught by purse seine in association with FADs, and low observer coverage in the longline fishery.
  • Bycatch of Endangered, Threatened and Protected (ETP) species will also likely be a problem in some purse seine and longline fisheries.
  • Yellowfin tuna caught in the Eastern Pacific (EP) can be considered to be a high risk.
  • The EP yellowfin tuna stock is currently overfished and overfishing is occurring.
  • Yellowfin catches in the EP in 2018 were about 251,000 tonnes, 12% higher than 2017 catch levels.
  • The main fishing gear is purse seine (95% of the catch), and recent catches by this gear are about 58% of the record high caught in 2002. Catches from longline vessels, although smaller in magnitude, have also declined substantially in recent years.
  • Fisheries targeting this stock are mainly managed through the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission.
  • Management measures are in place. However, their effectiveness is questionable.
  • A significant proportion of the Yellowfin tuna catch in the EP is harvested in association with dolphins, in free schools and increasingly under fish aggregating devices (FADs).
  • Yellowfin tuna caught in the Indian Ocean (IO) can be considered to be a high risk.
  • The IO yellowfin tuna stock is estimated to be overfished and overfishing is occurring due to an increase in catch levels in recent years.
  • Yellowfin tuna catches in 2018 were about 432,400 tonnes, a 3% increase from 2017 catch levels.
  • The main fishing gears used to catch yellowfin tuna in the IO are diverse; purse seine (36% of the catch), gillnets (20%), handlines (18%), and longline (10%). Catches by gillnet (20%) and miscellaneous gears (29%) have become increasingly important in recent years. Catches by these gears are poorly estimated. Catches from pole-and-line vessels (4%) have been relatively stable.
  • Fisheries targeting this stock are mainly managed through the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC).
  • Management measures are in place, however, there are ongoing concerns on IUU and piracy, and observer coverage is low.
  • Bycatch of ETP species is likely to be a problem in some purse seine, longline and gillnet fisheries.
  • Yellowfin tuna caught in the Atlantic Ocean (AO) can be considered to be a medium risk.
  • The AO yellowfin tuna stock is not overfished and overfishing is not occurring.
  • Yellowfin catches in 2018 were about 133,900 tonnes, an 1% decrease from 2017.
  • The main fishing gear is purse seining (about 68% of the catch). Purse seine catches have shown a general decrease since the early 1990s, but started growing again after 2007. About 11% of the catch is made by long-lining and 7% by pole-and-line vessels.
  • Fisheries targeting this stock are mainly managed through the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).
  • Management measures are in place, though low observer coverage might mean rules are not completely complied with / enforced.
  • Bycatch of ETP species will also likely be a problem in some purse seine and long-line fisheries.