Albacore tuna Pacific Region 2019 to 2020
Integrated Fisheries Management Plan summary

Download a PDF version of this Management Plan Summary

The purpose of this Integrated Fisheries Management Plan (IFMP) summary is to provide a brief overview of the information found in the full IFMP. This document also serves to communicate the basic information on the fishery and its management to DFO staff, legislated co-management boards and other stakeholders. The IFMP provides a common understanding of the basic “rules” for the sustainable management of the fisheries resource. The full IFMP is available on request.

This IFMP summary is not a legally binding instrument which can form the basis of a legal challenge. The IFMP can be modified at any time and does not fetter the Minister's discretionary powers set out in the Fisheries Act. The Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reasons, modify any provision of the IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act.

Where DFO is responsible for implementing obligations under land claims agreements, the IFMP will be implemented in a manner consistent with these obligations. In the event that an IFMP is inconsistent with obligations under land claims agreements, the provisions of the land claims agreements will prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.

Albacore Tuna

Albacore tuna

General introduction/overview - IFMP section 1

The Pacific Canadian fishery is focused on highly migratory Albacore Tuna (Thunnus alalunga) using troll gear. Harvest of Pacific Albacore is currently made using hook and line (jig) gear, primarily by troll, which involves towing artificial lures behind vessels travelling at approximately 6 knots. Net gear is not permitted.

The coastal fleet operates in the Canadian EEZ and the high seas under the authority of a Category CT tuna licence, which is available to all vessels with a vessel-based licence that has Schedule II privileges. Vessels without any Schedule II privileges may fish for tuna species on the high seas under the authority of a Section 68 (high seas only) licence.

With the exception of permanent and seasonal closures (Appendix 2 of the IFMP), the Pacific Albacore Tuna fishery will be open from April 1 to March 31 each year in the Canadian EEZ and the high seas. In accordance with fishing and port access privileges under the Canada/USA Pacific Albacore Tuna Treaty, a limited number of eligible Canadian vessels are permitted to fish for Albacore Tuna in the USA EEZ from June 15 to September 15 each year.

The management of Pacific Albacore tuna is conducted through two Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs): the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). A description and a map of the convention areas for each of these RFMOs can be found in section 1.7 of the IFMP. Additionally, the International Scientific Committee (ISC) provides scientific advice regarding the status of tuna stocks and bycatch species in the North Pacific Ocean to both the IATTC and WCPFC.

Canada has numerous obligations related to the management of Pacific Albacore Tuna which are a result of IATTC and WCPFC resolutions. These obligations include specifying and enforcing certain requirements for Canadian tuna harvesting vessels, which is often done through Conditions of Licence.

The 2019-2020 IFMP describes a number of changes that relate directly to the operation of the fishery. Changes include the removal of longline as permitted gear under CT licences, increased hail obligations, and the requirement to obtain additional authorization to harvest tuna in the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) Convention Area. Harvesters should consult licence conditions to for further details on these and other requirements.

Stock assessment, science and traditional knowledge - IFMP section 2

Stock assessment

The most recent stock assessment was completed in April 2018 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 assessment used a modelling period of 1993-2015. During the 1993-2015 period the total reported catch of north Pacific Albacore reached a peak of 119,300t in 1999, declined in the early 2000s, and then recovered, with catches fluctuating between 68,900t and 93,100t from 2010 to 2015.

Ecosystem Interactions

North Pacific Albacore are found in the epipelagic zone of sub-tropical and temperate waters of the open ocean and are strongly associated with frontal structures as these are areas of sharp temperature changes (fronts) and often high primary production, which attracts prey species. Albacore maintain a fast, continuous swimming lifestyle and are opportunistic top predators. Along the west coast of North America, Pacific Hake (Merluccius productus), Pacific Saury (Cololabis saira), Pacific Herring (Clupea pallasii), Northern Anchovy (Engraulis mordax), and squids are important prey in the diet of juvenile Albacore. Albacore have few predators, although they occasionally may be preyed on by large marine mammals, sharks, and billfishes.

Trolling operations are carried out at or close to the surface of the ocean and catches of non-target fish species and turtles, marine mammals and seabirds are generally negligible in troll fisheries world-wide. Incidental catch reported in the Canadian north Pacific Albacore fishery includes Skipjack Tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis), Pacific Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus orientalis), Dolphinfish or Mahi-Mahi (Coryphaena hippurus), Yellowtail (Seriola lalandi), Blue Shark (Prionace glauca) and Shortfin Mako Shark (Isurus oxyrinchus).

Precautionary Approach

The Department follows the Sustainable Fisheries Framework (SFF), which is a toolbox of policies for DFO and other interests to sustainably manage Canadian fisheries in order to conserve fish stocks and support prosperous fisheries. The SFF includes a decision-making framework incorporating a precautionary approach to commercial, recreational, and food--social-ceremonial fishing (http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/reports-rapports/regs/sff-cpd/precaution-eng.htm).

In general, the precautionary approach in fisheries management is about being cautious when scientific knowledge is uncertain, and not using the absence of adequate scientific information as a reason to postpone action or failure to take action to avoid serious harm to fish stocks or their ecosystem. This approach is widely accepted internationally as an essential part of sustainable fisheries management

Economic, social and cultural importance - IFMP section 3

Indigenous

Tuna fishing for Food, Social, and Ceremonial (FSC) purposes is permitted; however, information on access and use is limited.

Recreational

There is recreational interest in fishing for Albacore Tuna when stock distribution allows. This interest may increase as offshore technology improves the ability of recreational harvesters to access the stock.

Commercial

Pacific Albacore Tuna is one of the most valuable finfish in Canada’s major Pacific fisheries, both in terms of price per kilogram and total landed value in the fishery. The price per kilogram for Pacific Albacore Tuna has increased significantly in recent years, reaching $8.90 in 2017. The average annual total landed value from 2012-2017 was $17 million (in 2017 dollars), although total catch has varied considerably from year.

Management Issues - IFMP Section 4

Tuna Licence for Canada’s EEZ and Effort Limitation for Canadian-flagged Vessels

The commercial tuna fleet would generally prefer tuna be managed using a standalone licence, separate from any Schedule II associations. Industry representatives have also communicated concerns about the present absence of limits on catch or effort in the tuna fishery for operators of Canadian vessels harvesting tuna in Canada’s EEZ or the high seas. The Department has examined the potential to pursue a regulatory amendment that would create a separate licence category for tuna and has conducted an analysis of the options and benefits associated with limiting effort in the Albacore Tuna fishery. Considerable uncertainty was identified with regards to implications of different scenarios and it was determined that the current management approach poses a low risk to both the conservation of the stock and the likelihood of breaching Canada’s international commitments. The Department will continue to monitor stock status, fishing effort and fleet dynamics; however, the Department made the decision not to pursue a regulatory amendment or conduct further work to develop options or approaches to limit effort at this time.

International Progress on a Management Strategy Evaluation

Work on to advance a management strategy evaluation (MSE) for North Pacific Albacore Tuna is ongoing. The MSE evaluates possible target reference points and alternative harvest control rules and supports the application of the precautionary approach at the international level. This work is being led by the ALBWG. Management objectives have been established and a suite of candidate reference points have been proposed through three Albacore Tuna MSE workshops involving managers, scientists and stakeholders.

Oceans and ecological considerations - IFMP Section 5

Gear Impacts

Albacore Tuna vessels currently use hook and line gear, primarily troll. Tuna fishing gear is deployed at the very top of the water column and under normal operating circumstances, there is no contact with benthic features and habitats and minimal to no environmental impacts generally. Tuna fishing by troll is a highly targeted; based on harvester reports there is minimal bycatch and little to no impact to marine mammals or sea birds.

Other Species Concerns

Encounters with species at risk, and other sharks, marine mammals, and seabirds may occur in the tuna fishery. The Department and the fishing industry collect information on these encounters on behalf of the Species at Risk program and Marine Mammal Unit of DFO and Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment Canada.

Oceans and Habitat Considerations

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is engaged in a number of marine conservation initiatives in the Pacific Region. These initiatives are at various stages of planning, development, and implementation. The implications for the tuna fishery of these initiatives vary. More information is available in Section 5 and Appendix 2 of the IFMP.

Objectives and performance / evaluation criteria - IFMP sections 6 & 10

Objectives

  1. Stock Conservation: to ensure that harvest of Pacific Albacore Tuna is conducted in a sustainable manner and to support the use of the precautionary approach to fisheries management within Regional Fisheries Management Organizations.
  2. Ecosystem Processes: to ensure conservation of the Pacific Albacore Tuna stock, and manage for ecosystem impacts of fish harvest activities. Scientific management principles will be applied in a risk-based and precautionary manner based on the best scientific advice available, and through comprehensive monitoring of fish harvest activities.
  3. Access for Indigenous People: to continue to provide opportunities for First Nations to harvest for food, social and ceremonial purposes, in a manner consistent with the Sparrow Decision (SCC 1990), and other court decisions.
  4. Consultation: to maintain an open and transparent consultation process for discussions of harvest management issues for the Pacific Albacore Tuna fishery, including the development of the annual IFMP, activities related to Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, and the long-term direction of the fishery.
  5. Compliance: to continue to monitor fishing activity using hails, logbooks and aerial surveillance in cooperation with the US Coast Guard and other enforcement authorities.

Performance / Evaluation Criteria

  1. Stock Conservation: Fishing effort is maintained at or below levels specified in the IATTC Conservation and Management Measure (CMM) 2005-02. International Science Committee is engaged to determine stock levels and provide advice to RFMOs consistent with the precautionary principle.
  2. Ecosystem Processes: Mechanisms are in place to monitor the fishery by gathering catch and effort information through the hail and logbook programs.
  3. Access for Indigenous People: Mechanisms are in place for the Department to receive requests for FSC harvest authorizations; requests that received are processed in a timely manner.
  4. Consultation: A draft IFMP is distributed with 30 days for review and feedback. Pre-season and post-season meetings are held with the Tuna Advisory Board. The Department participates in bilateral meetings with the USA in order to facilitate Treaty-related discussions and negotiations.
  5. Compliance: Aerial surveillance is conducted and results compared to relevant authorizations. Hail and logbook compliance is reviewed; non-compliance is addressed through appropriate measures. U.S. and international enforcement counterparts are engaged where appropriate.

Access and allocations - IFMP section 7

The Minister can, for reasons of conservation or for any other valid reasons, modify access, allocations, and sharing arrangements as outlined in this IFMP in accordance with the powers granted pursuant to the Fisheries Act.

Indigenous

Indigenous harvest of Pacific Albacore Tuna for FSC purposes may occur coast wide where authorized by a communal licence.

Recreational

Recreational harvest of Pacific Albacore Tuna is permitted through a British Columbia Tidal Waters Sport Fishing Licence. The daily limit for Pacific Albacore Tuna is 20 pieces and the possession limit is 40 pieces.

Commercial

Commercial harvest of Pacific Albacore Tuna is permitted in the high seas, Canadian waters and USA waters where appropriately licenced. There is no restriction on the number of licences available for harvest in the high seas or Canadian waters. 45 Canadian vessels are eligible each year for licences permitting harvest in USA waters. There is no limit to the total allowable catch in Canada’s commercial Pacific Albacore Tuna fishery.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada contact

For additional information on this IFMP Summary or to request an electronic version of the full IFMP, please contact Brad Langman at 604-666-2188 or Bradley.Langman@dfo-mpo.gc.ca.