Is your tuna sustainable?

World Tuna Day Social Card

Tuna and tuna-like species are very important economically — to both developed and developing countries — and a significant source of food. They include approximately 40 species occurring in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans and in the Mediterranean Sea. They are remarkable fish. Tuna can jump high out of the water; they travel in huge schools; they are warm-blooded. They have been known to team up with dolphins for protection from sharks.

As a result of the amazing qualities of tuna, the fish are threatened by an overwhelming demand. Two main products drive tuna production; traditional canned tuna and sashimi/sushi. These products demonstrate relevant differences in terms of the species utilized, quality requirements and production systems. In the canned market, light meat species – namely skipjack and yellowfin – are dominant, whereas in the sushi and sashimi market, the fatty tuna of bluefin and other red meat species like bigeye are preferred. Bluefin tuna is the top preference for the sushi and sashimi market with most of it going to Japan.

Approximately 7 million tonnes of tuna and tuna-like species are landed yearly. As migratory tuna species account for 20 per cent of the value of all marine capture fisheries and over eight per cent of all globally traded seafood, the celebration by the United Nations of World Tuna Day is an important step in recognizing the critical role of tuna to sustainable development, food security, economic opportunity, and livelihoods of people around the world.

The Ocean Conference, held on June 2017 at UN Headquarters, was a good opportunity to highlight the importance of reversing the decline in the health of the Ocean to ensure sustainable management of marine life, such as tuna, which we are so dependent on.

In the 2016 edition of The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted the need for effective management to restore the overfished stocks including tuna. In the 2016 report, FAO registered new record catches for tuna. Total catches of tuna and tuna-like species were almost 7.7 million metric tonnes. FAO notes that market demand for tuna is still high, and that the significant overcapacity of tuna fishing fleets remains. Addressing the decline in tuna stocks resulting from overfishing in the world’s oceans, the UN Legal Counsel emphasizes the critical importance of effectively implementing the international legal framework, as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, widely known as UNCLOS, which has been strengthened by the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, recommendations of its Review Conference, annual General Assembly resolutions on sustainable fisheries, as well as other efforts by the international community at the global, regional and national levels.

In the lastest report, "The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture: Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals" (2018), FAO emphasized the sector’s role in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and its role in the measurement of progress towards these goals. It noted the particular contributions of inland and small-scale fisheries and highlighted the importance of rights-based governance for equitable and inclusive development.

Food and agriculture are key to achieving the entire set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and many are directly relevant to fisheries and aquaculture, in particular SDG 14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development). The report highlights the critical importance of fisheries and aquaculture for the food, nutrition and employment of millions of people, many of whom struggle to maintain reasonable livelihoods.

We observe World Tuna Day to highlight the importance of sustainably managed fish stocks in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.