Yellowfin tuna

Thunnus albacares

Common Name(s)

English: Yellowfin Tuna, Allison's Tuna, Pacific Long-tailed Tuna, Yellowfinned Albacore

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




Albacore, Grand Fouet, Thon Jaune


Albacora, Aleta Amarilla


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Date of Assessments

July 2020 (Updated November 2021)

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. albacares’ geographic limits are from 45°- 50° N and S of the equator, although in the Pacific they occur mainly from 20° N and S of the equator.
  • Typical average size at maturity ranges between 85 – 108cm (ISSF 2021). 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 food 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.
  • albacares’ feeds on fishes, crustaceans and squids. Like all tunas, their body shape is particularly well-adapted for speed, enabling them to pursue and capture fast-moving species 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 2019 was over 1.4 million tonnes (ISSF 2021).
  • 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. Also there are concerns about the baitfish* fisheries for the bait that is needed to catch the fish using hooks; these can be substantial and are largely unmonitored and unmanaged.

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. Problems with large-volume, yet unmanaged baitfish* fisheries are also associated with pole and line fisheries.   *See general coverage on tuna baitfisheries: Gillett, R. E. (2012). Global study of the management of baitfisheries that support pole-and-line tuna fishing SPC Fisheries Newsletter #139 - September/December 2012

  • Evidence from the catch certificate showing the following:
    • Latin species name,
    • country sea area / RFMO area,
    • vessel flag,
    • name of vessel,
    • Unique Vessel Identifier, such as an IMO number; note that as of 2017 vessels, including fishing vessels above 100 GT (which would include most tuna vessels) should have an IMO number. Ask supplier for a link showing the vessel identities. https://www.fao.org/global-record/background/unique-vessel-identifier/en/,
    • capture method,
    • landing port,
    • required observers onboard vessels
    • any knowledge of management of baitfish fishery that supplies target species (if pole and line or longline used) or any threatened species bycatch mitigation efforts by fishing operation
    • If pole and line / longline, is bait sourced from a fishery undergoing fisheries improvement?
  • Are the supplier vessels included in the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation ProActive Vessel Register (ISSF PVR)? Ask supplier for a link showing the vessel identities.
  • Note if you are buying from vessels that are not on the PVR – you can get suppliers to apply for PVR status: https://iss-foundation.org/knowledge-tools/public-vessel-lists/proactive-vessel-register/
  • Is your supplier a member of the Global Tuna Alliance?
If all of this evidence can be obtained, this will provide some assurance that the product has been legally caught, and that your supplier is supporting responsible tuna fishery management practices.



  • 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 2019 were about 681,000 tonnes[1], a 2% decrease from 2018.
  • The main fishing gear is purse seine (59% of the catch). 23% 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. The impacts of fishing for bait for hook and line based methods are not known.

[1] Note that the most recent year catch is always provisional and is updated later by ISSF. For 2021-10 report, at the time of the report, the WCPFC updated the YFT catch in the Western and Central Pacific for 2018 to be 695,442 tonnes and 681,039 tonnes for 2019 (a 2% decrease).

  • Yellowfin tuna caught in the Eastern Pacific (EP) can be considered to be a medium risk.
  • Overfishing stopped in the latest assessment from the EP yellowfin tuna stock.
  • Yellowfin catches in the EP in 2019 were about 241,000 tonnes[2], 5% lower than 2018 catch levels.
  • The main fishing gear is purse seine (95% of the catch), and recent catches by this gear are about 55% 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 (58%) of the Yellowfin tuna catch in the EP is harvested in association with dolphins, in fish schools and increasingly under fish aggregating devices (FADs).

[2] At the time of the latest Status of Stock Technical Report (2021-10) the catches of YFT for IATTC in the Eastern Pacific were updated to be: 252,860 in 2018 and 240,974 in 2019.

  • 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 2019 were about 427,200 tonnes[3], a 3% decrease from 2018 catch levels.
  • The main fishing gears used to catch yellowfin tuna in the IO are diverse; purse seine (35% of the catch), gillnets (20%), handlines (18%), troll and coastal longline/line (13%), longline (9%), pole-and-line vessels (4%).
  • Catches by gillnet (20%) and miscellaneous line gears (31% including handline, troll and coastal longline) have become increasingly important in recent years. Catches by these gears are poorly estimated. Catches from pole-and-line vessels 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.

[3] The catches of 2018 were updated as above. At the time of latest Status of Stock Technical Report (2021-10) the catches of YFT for IOTC in the Indian Ocean were updated to be: 440,833 in 2018 and 427,239 in 2019.

  • 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 2019 were about 132,200[4] tonnes, an 2% decrease from 2018.
  • 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.

[4] The catch figures in the Atlantic Ocean have been updated from Technical report 2020-12 to TR 2021-10 – 135,106 in 2018 vs 132,158 in 2019.