About the Species
U.S. wild-caught Atlantic bigeye tuna is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.
Below target level and fishing rate promotes population growth.
Reduced to end overfishing.
Fishing gear used to catch bigeye tuna rarely contacts the seafloor so habitat impacts are minimal.
Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.
- According to the 2015 stock assessment, Atlantic bigeye tuna are not overfished, are rebuilding to target population levels, and are subject to overfishing.
- The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) assesses the abundance of Atlantic bigeye tuna and evaluates the sustainability of current and proposed harvest practices. They use the scientific information from these assessments to make management recommendations.
- Bigeye tuna are dark metallic blue on the back and upper sides and white on the lower sides and belly.
- The first fin on their back is deep yellow, the second dorsal and anal fins are pale yellow, and the finlets are bright yellow with black edges.
- Bigeye and yellowfin tuna look fairly similar. In fact, it’s hard to distinguish the two species without experience.
- Among other characteristics, the bigeye’s eyes are larger than the yellowfin’s and their finlets have black edges.
- Bigeye tuna grow fast and can reach about 5.5 feet in length.
- They can live up to 9 years and are able to reproduce when they are 3.5 years old.
- Bigeye tuna spawn throughout the year but most often in the summer.
- They usually spawn at least twice a year.
- Females release between 3 million and 6 million eggs each time they spawn.
- Bigeye tuna feed near the top of the food chain, preying on fish, crustaceans, and squid.
- They are prey for many top predators, including sharks, billfish, larger tunas, and toothed whales.
Where They Live
- Bigeye tuna live in the tropical and warm temperate waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.
- In the western Atlantic, they can be found from Southern Nova Scotia to Brazil.
- NOAA Fisheries and the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Division manage the Atlantic bigeye tuna fishery in the United States.
- Managed under the Consolidated Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Fishery Management Plan:
- Commercial fishermen must have a permit to harvest yellowfin tuna.
- Gear restrictions.
- Time/area closures.
- Minimum size limit.
- Federal management for Atlantic tunas applies to state waters as well, except in Maine, Connecticut, and Mississippi. NOAA Fisheries periodically reviews these states’ regulations to make sure they’re consistent with federal regulations.
- Highly migratory species, such as bigeye tuna, have complicated management that requires international cooperation.
- The United States participates in regional fisheries management organizations, such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), to enhance tuna management worldwide.
- NOAA Fisheries sets regulations for the U.S. western Atlantic bigeye tuna fishery based on our science as well as conservation and management measures adopted by ICCAT. ICCAT conservation and management recommendations include:
- An annual total allowable catch allocated among members, sharing arrangements for member countries, minimum size limits, effort controls, time/area closures, trade tracking requirements, compliance measures, and monitoring and inspection programs.
- Adherence to an international cap on bigeye landings of 85,000 metric tons to allow the stock to continue to grow.
- ICCAT remains concerned about unreported catches and encourages tuna regional fishery management organizations to examine the possibility of “fish laundering” (reporting landings as another species) for bigeye and other species.
- In 2013, ICCAT adopted a measure to expand reporting requirements for tropical tuna fisheries using fish aggregating devices (FADs). The measure will improve data collection and allow ICCAT scientists to better characterize the fishing effort associated with FAD fishing.
- In 2000, the United States established the Dolphin-Safe Tuna Tracking and Verification Program to monitor the domestic production and importation of all frozen and processed tuna products nationwide and to authenticate any associated dolphin-safe claim.