Tuna questions and answers

From steaks to sushi to sandwiches, tuna is one of the world’s most popular seafoods. With global demand for tuna increasing dramatically over the last 50 years, ensuring its fished sustainably is more important than ever. Here we answer some of the most common questions about tuna.

Should I eat tuna?

If you want to eat tuna try to limit your purchases to MSC labelled products. The majority of canned/tinned tuna is skipjack tuna and there are several MSC certified sustainable sources. MSC labelled albacore and yellowfin tuna are also available in many supermarkets around the world.



Is tuna fishing sustainable?

The name tuna covers a few different species. Some stocks of some species are currently overfished. Many tuna stocks are still healthy and are being fished sustainably.

Tuna are highly migratory species and tuna fishing requires careful management between organisations and countries. Read more about the challenges and solutions for sustainable tuna fishing.


How is tuna caught?

There are different ways of catching tuna. The methods and gear used in tuna fishing could depend on: 

  • Which tuna species is being fished
  • Where the tuna lives 
  • The size of the tuna

Common gear types used by MSC certified tuna fisheries include pole and linepurse seine nets and long lines.

Any of these gear types can be used sustainably, depending on their use, the amount of tuna being caught and how their gear affects the wider ecosystem. 

Some tuna fisheries use additional tools like Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) which have been associated with bycatch (accidental catch) of other species. However, these can also be well managed and FAD doesn't always mean "bad"

Common gear types for catching tuna:



Is bluefin tuna endangered?

There are three species of bluefin tuna: Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern. There are four distinct bluefin stocks and some are in better shape than others. 

In 2011 Atlantic bluefin tuna was listed as endangered on the IUCN red list of Threatened species. Atlantic bluefin had declined by 50% in ten years. 

Atlantic bluefin tuna has two stocks: Eastern and Western. The Eastern Atlantic stock has recovered to some extent over the last decade

In 2018, two fisheries that fish the Eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna stock entered assessment to see if they are sustainable. The independent assessment team will score them against the MSC Fisheries Standard.

In August 2020, Japan's Usufuku Honten Northeast Atlantic longline bluefin tuna fishery, became the first of its kind to attain MSC certification


Is tuna dolphin friendly?

Most tuna species have nothing to do with dolphins. Yellowfin tuna are associated with dolphins in parts of the Pacific Ocean, where the species often swim close together. 

In these places dolphins swim near the water surface, with yellowfin tuna up to 150 metres below. The reasons for this flocking behavior are uncertain and are only observed in older yellowfin tuna. 

Historically, fishers in the Eastern Tropical Pacific near Central America have used the presence of dolphins to find yellowfin tuna. 

Tuna in the Eastern Tropical Pacific is usually caught with purse seine nets, which surround a school of fish before being pulled together. Because dolphins swim above tuna, accidental catch (bycatch) of dolphins has been high in the region.

In 1989, dolphin bycatch for Mexican purse seine tuna fisheries was 132,000 animals. A new strategy was needed and more selective fishing methods were introduced. Between 1985 and 1997 dolphin mortalities dropped by 99%.

Since 2017, the Northeastern Tropical Pacific Purse Seine yellowfin and skipjack tuna fishery has been MSC certified.

Dolphin safe, or dolphin friendly labels mean that tuna has come from boats with no interaction with dolphins. These labels don’t provide any reassurance about the wider impacts of tuna fishing. The blue MSC label means that the tuna was caught with consideration for the wider marine environment, including impacts on species such as dolphin. 

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