Eastern Pacific Ocean Tuna – TUNACONS

Fishery Improvement Projects

Eastern Pacific Ocean Tuna - TUNACONS

  • Species Name: Skipjack (Katsuwonus pelamis), Yellowfin (Thunnus albacares) and Bigeye (Thunnus obesus).
  • Location/Region: The EEZs of Ecuador, Peru, Panama, Colombia, United States, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and the international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean
  • Gear Type: Purse seine
  • Volume: 113,568 mt

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Eastern Pacific Ocean Tropical Tuna Purse Seine


FIP Stage: 4 (Improvements in Fishing Practices or Fishery Management)
Last Updated: September 2019

Ecuador is a major world player in the tuna industry. In the eastern Pacific Ocean (EPO), Ecuador has the largest purse seine fleet, the main capture and the biggest processing capacity. The industry generates an income to the country of 1.2 billion dollars and employs, directly and indirectly, approximately 50,000 people in the coastal region of Ecuador. The main fishing method used by the Ecuadorian fleet is setting on fish aggregating devices (FADs), and the main species captured is skipjack tuna (Katsuwonus pelamis). The fishery is managed by the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) based on the Antigua Convention. The main tuna stocks (i.e., yellowfin tuna, bigeye tuna and skipjack tuna) are close to maximum sustainable yield. In the TUNACONS group there are 44 fishing vessels representing 17% of the total fleet operating in the EPO.

Critical issues challenging the fishery include overcapacity of the fishing fleet and the impact of the use of FADs on tuna populations and other marine species (e.g., sharks).

The active involvement of FIP Stakeholders including WWF Ecuador, the Ministry of Foreign Trade, the National Fisheries Institute (INP), and the Fishery School of the EPO (EPESPO), and FIP Participants drives improvements against the Marine Stewardship Council standard.

© Tunacons


FIP efforts address governance, fishing practices, and environmental impacts of the fishery so that it can meet the MSC standard. This work is steered by FIP participants and FIP stakeholders and includes:
  • Tunacons technicians are working along with the industry are analyzing new alternative materials to replace traditional FADs with biodegradable prototypes, or EcoFADs, that minimize the negative impact on the ecosystem.

  • Conducting training workshops with fishers about the IATTC regulations, proper handling of bycatch, and how to test the EcoFAD prototypes being developed under the FIP.

  • An on-board observer program, financed by Tunacons, is being implemented, and is managed by the INP, to cover 100% of the trips taken by small vessels in the fleet (classes 3 to 5) that are not obligated by law to have observers.

  • Working with the IATTC to strengthen the stock assessment model for tropical tunas and develop conservation measures.

  • Working with the Ecuadorian government and other stakeholders of the tuna value chain to develop the National Action Plan for the conservation of tunas.

  • Developing techniques and technologies (e.g., sorting grids), to reduce catches of juvenile Yellowfin and Bigeye tuna.


We encourage action across the supply chain to support FIP progress. A FIP Participant is an industry member that is part of the seafood supply chain for the FIP product and is actively engaged in supporting the FIP.






The Marine Stewardship Council uses 28 performance indicators to assess the sustainability of fisheries. The chart represents the percentage of indicators that would likely pass, pass with conditions for improvement, or fail upon the fishery’s full assessment.

Eastern Pacific Ocean Tropical Tuna Purse Seine (TUNACONS) FIP Status

Initial Assessment

Implementing Improvements

We use a step-wise process to evaluate the fishery’s performance and identify sustainability issues, and then to implement improvements and report results. Want to dive deeper into this FIP’s progress on each of the MSC performance indicators? Visit FisheryProgress.org.


The fishery has achieved the following impacts through improved practices and management
  • TUNACONS promoted the development and formal adoption of the National Strategy of FADs through a Ministerial Agreement.

  • TUNACONS advised the Government of Ecuador to submit a proposal for a resolution to adopt the harvest control rules for tropical tunas at the annual meeting of the IATTC. The harvest control rule proposal was adopted by the IATTC in 2016.

  • Fishing companies have formally adopted and are routinely implementing a protocol for handling and release of bycatch.

  • 100% of the fleet has on-board observers, which includes the larger class 6 vessels obligated by law and the smaller class 3 to 5 vessels.

An artisanal fisherman holds up a Mahi Mahi fish, Ecuador

© WWF-US / Molly Edmonds

Other efforts to promote a sustainable future for Ecuador’s fisheries

August 7, 2018

Another critically important fishery to Ecuador, the mahi mahi fishery, is one of the country’s most valuable artisanal fisheries and products are primarily exported to the United States. To promote a sustainable future for this critical fishery, Ecuador’s undersecretary of fisheries resources, in collaboration with WWF, launched the Ecuador Mahi Mahi FIP in 2010.