Fresh Tuna catch
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,
Photo:Engin_Akyurt / Pixabay

Is your tuna sustainable?

Canned tuna has been a great ally in our pantries during the pandemic. Consumption of inexpensive and shelf-stable canned tuna increased worldwide in 2020. Demand for frozen raw product also increased. The non-canned tuna market, however, remained suppressed, along with restricted catering trade, due to the COVID-19 crisis.

But, regardless of the market exceptionalities caused by the pandemic, we cannot ignore that, for a long time, this product has been a victim of its nutritional success.

Tuna and tuna-like species are very important economically — to both developed and developing countries — and a significant source of food, considering their nutritional properties. Their meat is rich in Omega-3 and it also contains minerals, proteins, and vitamin B12, among other advantages.

As a result of the amazing qualities of tuna, the fish are threatened by overwhelming demand. According to the latest data, among the seven principal tuna species, 33.3 percent of the stocks are estimated to be fished at biologically unsustainable levels

That is why in December 2016, the United Nations General Assembly voted to officially observe World Tuna Day in its resolution 71/124.

The move underlines the importance of conservation management to ensure that we have systems in place to prevent tuna stocks from crashing. Many countries depend heavily on tuna resources for food security and nutrition, economic development, employment, government revenue, livelihoods, culture, and recreation. Therefore, Sustainable Development Goal 14 - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources - applies to the global tuna market.

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Find out about the Sustainable Development Goal on Oceans

If tuna markets can't control overfishing, more than biodiversity will be endangered. Learn about the goal's target related to overfishing and its importance for an industry that employs more than 200 million people.

An overview of the situation

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. Most of it goes to Japan.

More than 7 million metric tons of tuna and tuna-like species are harvested yearly. These migratory tuna species account for 20 percent of the value of all marine capture fisheries and over 8 percent of all globally traded seafood. With that information in mind, we need to recognize the critical role of tuna in sustainable development, food security, economic opportunity, and the livelihoods of people around the world.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization notes that market demand for tuna is still high and that the significant overcapacity of tuna fishing fleets remains. In its latest report, FAO registered that catches of tunas continued to increase, reaching their highest levels in 2018 at about 7.9 million metric tons, overriding the subtle reduction achieved in 2016.

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 Code of Conduct for Sustainable Fishery, 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.

At present, over 96 countries are involved in the conservation and management of tuna, which has an annual value of almost 10 billion USD, and some FAO relevant programmes have started giving positive results in reducing overfishing.

Let's be optimistic about the tuna of tomorrow.

Did you know?

  • Tuna and tuna-like species include approximately 40 species occurring in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans and in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • As a result of the amazing qualities of tuna, the fish are threatened by overwhelming demand. Approximately 7 million tonnes of tuna and tuna-like species are landed yearly.
  • Tuna species account for 20 percent of the value of all marine capture fisheries and over eight percent of all globally traded seafood.
  • In 2017, among the seven principal tuna species, 33.3 percent of the stocks were estimated to be fished at biologically unsustainable levels, while 66.6 percent were fished within biologically sustainable levels.

Events: INFOFISH TUNA 2021

View of the exhibition hall

The virtual Conference and Exhibition INFOFISH TUNA 2021 will take place from May 19th to 21th under the theme: “The Global Tuna Industry: Trailblazing through tough times”. Register

A man shows a bucket full of tuna

Established in 1984, GLOBEFISH is a multi-donor funded project within the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department responsible for providing up-to-date trade and market on fish and fishery products. GLOBEFISH promotes and facilitates information exchange among the seafood industry, governments, academia and stakeholders worldwide. Check it out for more information related to tuna market. 


Tuna fishing

Between 2014 to 2019, the number of major tuna stocks experiencing overfishing went down from 13 to five. To make this happen, the Common Oceans ABNJ Program brought together scientists and fishery managers to develop sustainable and transparent tuna harvest strategies and processes based on computer simulation exercises. Learn more about the programe.


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International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.