The shelf-stable tuna sector comprises the supply of cooked tuna, which is predominantly sold as canned product. Over 90 percent of the canned tuna supply comes from purse seiner vessels. SFP considers yellowfin (Thunnus albacares), skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis), bigeye (Thunnus obesus), and albacore (Thunnus alalonga) as shelf-stable (SS) tuna, when captured by the following gear methods, as per tuna RFMO catch datasets:
- Gillnet (GN)
- Bait boat (BB)
- Troll (TR)
- Purse seine (PS)
- Small purse seine (PSS)
- Handline (HL) – except for yellowfin and bigeye tuna from Indonesia, Oman, the Philippines, and Vietnam
- Rod and reel (RR) – except for yellowfin from India and the Maldives.
Additionally, the following species/gear method combinations are considered as producing shelf-stable tuna:
- Albacore and skipjack caught with longline (LL)
- Skipjack caught with hook and line (HOOK, LX)
- Albacore and yellowfin caught with trawl (TW)
- Skipjack caught with ringnet (RN).
Based on 2014 production data,1.85 million tonnes, or 45 percent of the global production, are currently considered sustainable or improving, using publicly available information on MSC status and FIP progress ratings reviewed in February 2020. An additional ~6 percent of global production is in freshly launched FIPs, which are not yet rated for progress.
SFP has identified 44 percent of global supply from high-volume fisheries that we suggest to retail partners and their supply chains as priorities for addition into the sustainable or improving categories by 2020. These are:
- Indonesia, all species, non-improving (8 percent)
- Japan, all species, non-MSC-certified (4.1 percent)
- PNA, non-MSC-certified (18.8 percent)
- US purse seine, non-MSC-certified (1.1 percent)
- Taiwan, all species, non-MSC-certified (4.5 percent)
- Ecuador, all species, non-improving (5.2 percent)
- Korea, all species, non-MSC-certified (2.4 percent)
Please find an overview of all production in this sector here.
While stock status of skipjack, in particular, is of less concern, the primary sustainability concern in this sector is purse seine bycatch on FAD (Fish Aggregating Device) sets and its impact on other species, such as catches of juvenile bigeye tuna associated with FADs or bycatch in the longline fisheries, including of endangered, threatened, and protected (ETP) species such as sharks, rays, dolphins, sea turtles, sea birds, etc.
SFP recommends the adoption and application of best practices for sourcing and fishing, such as the Non-Entangling and Biodegradable FADs Guide and Collective Best Practices for Well-Managed FAD Fisheries.
SFP estimates the shelf-stable tuna sector to have a total global production of 4.1 million tonnes. This includes FAO data for 2014 and RFMO reports.
Based on a 2017 analysis, Thailand is the largest exporter of processed tuna (35 percent), followed by Ecuador (17.7 percent), Spain (~10 percent), China (7.6 percent), Indonesia (6 percent), the Philippines (5.7 percent), the Netherlands (~5 percent), Mauritius (4.3 percent), Italy (3.3 percent), Vietnam (3.2 percent), and Ghana (2.4 percent).
Thailand sources mainly from the Western Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) and Indian Ocean (IO), and its main markets are the US, EU, Middle East, Australia, Canada, and Japan. Ecuador sources from the Eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO), and its major markets are the EU, US, and other Latin American countries. The Philippines sources from the WCPO, and its main markets are the EU and US. EU processors source from the Atlantic Ocean (ATL), IO, and EPO, and their main market is the EU. US processors source from the WCPO fleets, and their main market is North America (US, Canada, and Mexico).
The United States is the world’s largest importer of canned tuna (13.5 percent), followed by Italy (8 percent), Spain (7 percent), Germany (6.2 percent), France (5.4 percent), the United Kingdom (5.4 percent), the Netherlands (3.7 percent), Australia (3.6 percent), Saudi Arabia (2.8 percent), and Canada (2.6 percent).
Retailers are the main outlet in most markets. The largest canned tuna retail markets are the EU (half nationally produced, half imported) and the US (some nationally produced, but mostly imported from Asia, mainly Thailand), followed by Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Australia/New Zealand.