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FAO 2012 Global Tuna Outlook

Sustainability Economics +1 more

Tuna supply is expected to increase somewhat but demand is hurt by high prices, according to the FAO Global Food Outlook.


Supplies of skipjack did not improve during the first quarter of 2012, and yellowfin became more limited. Following the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) decision to lift two partial fishing bans, the catch situation may improve in the near future, especially for skipjack.

In the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean, 2011 catches reached 540 000 tonnes, with skipjack at 272 700 tonnes representing a 60 pecent increase, yellowfin at 208 800 tonnes for a 9 percent decrease, and bigeye tuna at 44 100 tonnes, an 8 percent decrease. Ecuador and Mexico had the highest catches, followed at a distance by Panama, Venezuela and Colombia. The 2012 catch data for the area show a modest, 4 percent increase, but March prices for yellowfin and skipjack remained firm.

In Japan tuna imports fell again in 2011 to 236 400 tonnes, compared with 278 000 tonnes in 2010. Canned tuna imports were up after the March earthquake, as consumers looked for non-perishable products.

In the United States, 2011 was another disappointing year, as fresh and frozen tuna imports fell by 14.3 percent. Higher raw-material costs have caused some canneries to introduce smaller can sizes and add more non-tuna food ingredients such as vegetables to the can, especially as lunch-specials.

Despite high prices and economic stagnation, EU imports of canned tuna posted positive growth in 2011, reaching 353 500 tonnes, up by 4.6 percent in quantity. Ecuador maintained its position as the number one supplier closely followed by Thailand.

Thai canned tuna export volumes were flat during 2011 but values increased by a significant 18.3 percent. Thai imports of frozen tuna raw materials totalled 781 449 tonnes, 5 percent lower than in 2010.

In Japan, limited supply and good demand will keep tuna prices firm. In the United States, demand for non-canned tuna is improving, and the non-canned tuna market is expected to improve during spring and summer.

Frozen Tuna Imports (Japan)

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
(thousand tonnes)
Yellowfin 90.3 58.7 47.4 44.1 50.1 47.8
Bigeye 86.3 86.8 77.8 77.1 73.9 62.1
Skipjack 50.5 31.3 33.5 53.3 59.6 42.2
S. bluefin 7.9 8.4 7.4 6.9 6.7 7.4
Albacore 6.2 6.0 8.3 8.5 23.2 18.0
N. Bluefin 5.1 6.3 4.2 4.0 1.8 3.2
Total 246.3 197.5 178.3 193.9 215.3 180.7

May 2012