A Sustainable Natural Resource

The numbers related to the consumption of fish and seafood are staggering.

  • Globally, fish provides about 3 Billion people with about 20% of their daily protein and 4.3 billion with about 15% of their daily protein.
  • Capture fisheries and aquaculture supply about 148 million tonnes of fish in 2010 of which about 86% was used for food.
  • In the period between 1961 – 2009, the world fish food supply has grown at an average rate of 3.2% per year.
  • In 1960’s the average world per capita food fish supply increased from an average of 9.9 kg (live weight equivalent) to 18.4 kg in 2009 (18.6 kg in
    2011, prelim).
  • In the last few years, however, global capture fisheries production continues to remain stable at about 90 million tonnes annually. With the balance being produced through aquaculture.
  • The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 57% of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited, 13% are non-fully exploited, and 30% are overexploited.

There are several pressures that affect our ocean and fishery resources, including;

  • Increasing global demand for seafood;
  • Destructive fishing techniques, climate change and pollution that is disturbing marine ecosystems and affecting the health of fish and other
    marine species;
  • Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU page)—in domestic and international waters;
  • New fishing technologies that have made it easier to catch large quantities of fish; and,
  • Fisheries management that varies in effectiveness from region to region.

Although the future for fisheries may appear bleak, today’s global concerns about the sustainability of fisheries may be beginning to change the outcome. In collaboration, the fishing industry, governments, international organizations, and consumers are beginning to recognize the significant issues related to fishery sustainability and many have begun to take actions designed to address the challenges facing global fisheries and the world’s oceans overall.


Related to capture fisheries, we define sustainable seafood as fished in a manner that can maintain or increase overall production in the long term, without jeopardizing the health or function of the life-web in our oceans. While fishery catch peaked in the Northeast Pacific, Northwest, and Northeast Atlantic
many years ago, and the total production declined from the early to mid-2000’s, production trends have now reversed in these three areas due to industry, and
governments taking action.

Since 2010 production in the West Central Atlantic continues to decreased, as well as in some US fisheries. The Northwest Pacific, however, remains the most productive global fishing area. To achieve the sustainability of a fishery i.e. one that is harvested at a sustainable rate, where the fish population does not decline over time because of fishing practices. A series of tasks are required

  • Understanding the dynamic of a fishery
  • Steps to avoid overfishing based on recruitment
  • Stopping destructive and illegal fishing practices through appropriate
    policies, laws, setting up protected areas, educating stakeholders and the
  • Development of independent certification programs

There is exceptional work going on in many countries to address Sustainable Fisheries and Canada is at the forefront of much of this work. Canadian industry and governments, working together, have been leaders in such efforts to address over-fishing and improve international fisheries and oceans governance in our own waters and on the high seas.

Note: An excellent report to read is SOFIA (State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2012 produced by UNFAO. This report is updated every three years)

Sustainable Albacore

In Canada there is a multi-level approach to the management of albacore tuna.


Since our Albacore Tuna are a wide ranging species (They spawn in the central pacific)and travel to Japan, North America and back in its 10-12 year lifecycle, it is an international species. As a Country, then Canada participates in two international agencies related to the North Pacific Albacore Tuna stocks.

WCPFC (Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission)

Established in 2005 is a treaty- based organization established to conserve and manage tuna and other highly migratory fish stock in the western and central Pacific Ocean It was established by the Convention for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, which entered into force in 2004. The WCPF Convention is the second regional fisheries management agreement negotiated since the conclusion of the 1995 U.N. Straddling Fish Stocks Agreement.

IATTC (Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (1949)

Is an international commission that is responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and other marine resources in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

These agencies, of which Canada is a member, undertake activities related to scientific study, conservation issues, fishery disputes, and dedicated work to both determine the biomass of Northern Pacific Albacore Tuna stocks, and to ensure the long term viability and sustainability of the fishery.

Both the IATTC and the WCPFC currently have resolutions on albacore conservation and management stating that the total level of fishing effort should not be increased beyond current levels for North Pacific albacore in the Eastern Pacific Ocean (IATTC) and the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, north of the equator (WCPFC). The two organizations also require member countries to take necessary measures to ensure that the level of fishing effort by their vessels fishing for North Pacific albacore is not increased.

While some tuna species such as Atlantic Bluefin have serious issues related to sustainability, in fact they are endangered, the Northern Pacific Stocks of Albacore are in good shape.

The most recent stock assessment was completed in June 2011 by scientists of the ISC Albacore Working Group (ALBWG), which is comprised of scientists from Canada, Japan, Taiwan, USA, Mexico, Korea, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

The base-case model estimates that total stock biomass has fluctuated between 700,000 and 1.1 million metric tonnes between 1966 and 2009 and that recruitment has averaged approximately 48 million fish annually during this period. Where there are natural fluctuations in Albacore population recruitment has been about average in recent years and the population is near its long term median biomass, which means that 50 % of the time the stock has been above the current level and 50% of the time below the current level. Based on these findings the Albacore Working Group has concluded that stocks are healthy at average historical recruitment levels and sustainability of the stock is not threatened by overfishing and if current average recruitment levels and fishing mortality are maintained, then the stock will remain near its median level of abundance until the next assessment currently expected to be conducted in 2014-15.

A detailed report on Stock Recruitment and Biomass Levels may be found in the 2013-14 Integrated Fisheries Management Plan for Albacore (www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fmgp/mplans/2013/tuna-thon-2013-eng.pdf).

Canada -Precautionary Approach

In Canada, the overall management of Marine Fisheries is the responsibility of the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
In collaboration with industry, DFO has recently implemented new “Sustainable Fisheries Framework (SFF)”, management protocol for the British Columbia based, Canadian Albacore fishery. This framework is a toolbox of existing and new policies that governments, industry,
and other interested parties to sustainably manage Canadian fisheries in order to conserve fish stocks and support prosperous fisheries.

New conservation policies have been developed to implement the ecosystem and precautionary approaches to fisheries management. These new policies, incorporated into development of new Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) templates, join existing policies in a new framework to promote sustainable fisheries.

In Canada, there is currently no established Total Allowable Catch (TAC), nor limitations to the Albacore fishery, given that stock assessments have concluded that the current exploitation level of the North Pacific albacore stock was high relative to the most commonly used reference points for contemporary fisheries management. Instead, given there is no international formal guidance
on this issue, the ISC has recommended that current fishing effort not be increased and that all stakeholders adhere to precautionary-based fishing practices. Qualitative updates and limited analysis since the last stock assessment tend to provide more optimistic views of spawning biomass and recruitment in this stock.

Canadians have been fishing albacore since the late 1930s in the North Pacific. Although fishing has been recorded in all months of the year, the fishery primarily occurs from late June through October each year when juvenile albacore are abundant in warm offshore and coastal waters of the United States and Canada.

Catches by the Canadian north Pacific Albacore troll fishery since 1996 have ranged from a low of 2,166 tonnes in 1997 to a high of 7,857 tonnes in 2004, with an average catch of 4,977 tonnes over this period (1996-2012.The majority of Canadian vessels fish for albacore within the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of Canada and the United States. Canadian access to these waters is governed by a regularly negotiated Canada-U.S. Pacific Albacore Tuna Treaty, which provided for reciprocal access to commercial fishermen to each other’s waters.

British Columbia – Industry Efforts

The commercial Northern Albacore fishing fleet in British Columbia consists of some 200 unique vessels who typically fish in a season between June and October each year and land approximately 5,000 tonnes annually. Industry members sit on a number of International, Federal, Provincial, and Industry Boards and are instrumental in contributing to the overall management of the fishery. The Tuna Advisory Board (TAB) is an integrated multi-government, industry, NGO, and First Nations group who advise Federal Fisheries on management and fisheries policy.

Industry is represented by the British Columbia Tuna Fisherman’s Association (BCTFA), independent fishermen, processors, and the Canadian Highly Migratory Species Foundation (CHMSF). There are a number of practices that are undertaken by Canadian, and neighbouring Northern US fleet, Albacore fishermen that are unique to the fishery and lead to significant sustainable practices relate to the fishery.

Troll Fishery

The BC/Canadian fleet exclusively uses Troll gear, which is an important aspect to our fishery…

Other international fisheries of Tuna, and other species, may use long lines or drift nets. Such fisheries often have high by-catch of marine mammals, sea birds, turtles, and other species as they fish indiscriminately. Since our fishery uses Troll Gear, it is a surface fishery which has no contact with the substrate and therefore has no impact on sponge reefs, or other benthic habitats.

In addition the BC/Canadian fleet does not use bait, but instead a colorful lure on a barbless hook to individually attract Albacore. By using a barbless hook, any incidental by-catch can be released alive immediately after hooking so stress and injuries can be kept to minimum. The Northern Pacific Albacore Troll fishery is one of the cleanest in the world.

Using Troll technology, each caught albacore is handled individually, immediately upon landing the fish are chilled in an ice bath to lower its temperature. Tuna are then blast frozen to halt migration of valuable oils with the fish.

This sequence of events;

  • catching individually
  • ice bath
  • blast freezing

limits the volume of fish that can be handled in a given day but ensures the highest quality, which is well recognized with international markets. In fact the Albacore typically, remains frozen even during the “loining” process to maintain the highest quality. The first time the tuna is thawed is immediately prior to preparation at a restaurant or home.

Canadian canned product is also unique in that the fish is put into the can raw and “retorted” once retaining all the essential Omega-3 oils. Is it very common for processors in other countries to cook the tuna then pack in a can, add back substitute oils (cotton, olive, and canola) to replace those lost in the original cooking process, and then “retort” to produce the final product.


In Canada, and the US, Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s) are crucial to supporting and contributing to the practice of sustainable fisheries. Working with various NGO’s the Canadian Albacore Fishery has been recognized internationally as a sustainable fishery by Ocean Wise Program (Vancouver Aquarium), Sea Watch Program (Monterey Bay Aquarium), Sea Choice Initiative (David Suzuki Foundation, Sierra Club of Canada, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Ecology Action Centre, Living Oceans Society).

The Canadian Albacore Fishery is also “Certified” under the international recognized Marine Stewardship Certification Program (MSC) as a sustainable fishery. This process entails an annual audit and 5 year re-certification process funded by industry.

Note: For more information, please visit the MSC website at www.msc.org. For further questions, please contact americasinfo@msc.org


For consumers making sustainable seafood choices is all about supporting solutions for healthier oceans. Choosing sustainable seafood is an easy and effective action that everyone can take every time they purchase seafood. As individuals, chefs, or suppliers sourcing from fishermen, the collective choices cont. Voting with your wallet sends a strong signal to government and industry leaders, telling them that you support responsible stewardship of our natural marine resources.


The Canadian North Pacific Albacore Fishery is unique. The fishery, itself is international in scope meaning that its management and future relies on the cooperation of and between international Organizations and Government, our Federal and Provincial Governments and
Agencies, Fishermen, Processors, Brand Label Marketers, NGO’s, and Consumers.

From our industry part we support all of these efforts and collaborations- as, of course, the future of our industry depends on us being optimal stewards of this special resource.

As an industry, we participate in, and support:

  • The efforts and deliberations of the WCPFC, and IATTC;
  • Federal Scientists in attending international meetings of the Commission for the conservation and management of highly migratory species fish stocks in the western and central pacific;
  • A series of North Pacific Albacore Workshop;
  • Multi-year of Mercury Testing in BC Albacore Tuna Flesh;
  • Collaboration with US Research Organizations on Mercury Testing issues
  • Attended meetings in Brazil, Belgium, Hong Kong, UK, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington State, on seafood safety and management issues related to Albacore;
  • Participation in collaborative studies with Washington, Oregon,
  • California researchers in an Albacore Length-Frequency Population study
  • Initiation and maintenance of a sampling program for OMEGA-3’s in BC Albacore
  • Initiation and maintenance of a sampling program to test Albacore Tuna for radioactive contamination from Fukushima Reactor;
  • Supports the “Albacore Tuna Catch and Effort Relational Database” under the International Governance and High Seas Science program;
  • Supporter of marketing initiatives related to BC Albacore Tuna (Buy
  • BC Program, Marriage Made In BC, BC Home Show, BC Wine Institute
  • Has been recognized internationally as a sustainable fishery by Ocean Wise Program (Vancouver Aquarium), Sea Watch Program (Monterey Bay Aquarium), Sea Choice Initiative (David Suzuki Foundation, Sierra Club of Canada, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Ecology Action Centre, Living Oceans Society); and,
  • Maintains its Marine Stewardship Certification through annual audits and 5 year re-certification process.

The future of the global Tuna fishery, as all fisheries, is based upon responsible and sustainable management and fishing practices. We are proud that as representatives of the Canadian Albacore tuna fishery, we work continually toward maintaining the sustainability of this fishery.