Tuna Industry in the European Union market

The generic term “tuna industry” induces us to think, both automatically and intuitively, of the two major sectors it contains the tuna fleet and the canning industry so that it is impossible to conceive one without the other and vice versa.
The two sectors are complementary and interdependent, and the tuna industry is one of the few examples that can be found in the Community fisheries sector, where production and processing structures have sufficient health to be profitable and competitive in the global market.

Community tuna market

The Community market devoted to the processing industry mainly uses tropical tuna (yellowfin, skipjack and bigeye tuna) and to lesser extent albacore.
There are two major tuna producers in the Community, Spain, and France, to which must be added Portuguese island production. These three countries also carry out transformation activities.
In addition to catches of bigeye tuna by Portugal, catches of albacore and bluefin tuna from France, Spain and Italy in Community waters (Atlantique Nord-Est and Mediterranean) the bulk of Community tuna catches industrial tropical is carried out in the Western Indian Ocean and the Eastern Central Atlantic, either in the territorial waters of countries with which the EC has signed an agreement, or in international waters.
The world production of the three main species mentioned – yellowfin tuna, skipjack tuna, and bigeye tuna – exceeds 3 million tonnes of Community production is about 425 000 tonnes, that is to say, more or less 14% of global catches.
At present, Community catches in Indian Ocean waters (217 000 tonnes) exceed the catches of the Atlantic Ocean (208 000 tonnes) unlike in the early 1980s, when the fleet was mainly fishing in waters eastern tropical Atlantic. When compared to the total world catches in these oceans, community catches represent only 47% of the total in the Atlantic and 33% of the total Indian Ocean. Community catches in the Pacific are by far the lowest.
With regard to the composition of the fleet of Member States, the freezer tuna fleet comprises 47 Spanish and 32 French vessels, to which must be added the coastal fleet which fishes in Community waters and whose production is intended both for fishing and fishing. consumption of fresh products, sometimes to the canning industry.
Catches of the two most used species for industry (albacore and skipjack) by the Community fleet increased from 150 000 tonnes in 1982 to 363 000 tonnes in 1992, which implies an increase of approximately 140%. During the same period, world production increased by 84%.
It is noted that world tuna production has increased considerably over the past ten years, which has benefited significantly from Community production. This increase is the consequence of the inclusion in the sector of developing countries located near abundant resources.
The Community expansion is probably due to the technical knowledge of the shipowners (which, in addition to constituting a dynamic sector, have an important technological component) and without doubt also the result of a favorable economic and legal environment created by the Community. and which can be summarized as follows:
– a policy to help improve production structures; – the signing of fisheries agreements with various third countries, which
weave access to their territorial waters;
– the mechanism of the common organization of the markets which obliges the shipowners to manage their companies in a situation of competitiveness open on the international market, while at the same time guaranteeing a minimum level of income ensured by the application of the compensation mechanism.
This growth has been made possible only by the existence of a growing consumer market and the fact that resources are no problem.

Fisheries agreements and compensatory allowances

One of the most decisive elements of Community policy for the growth and development of the Community’s tuna fleet is the first generation fisheries agreements, based on the licensing system. Indeed, these agreements are essential for this fleet for the following reasons:
– each tuna boat has to fish each year as much on the high seas as in the exclusive economic zones of many countries. Given the migratory nature of the species sought, the result of the fishing season depends to a large extent on the fact that there is no discontinuity due to the non-coverage of exclusive economic zones by a fisheries agreement;
– both the cost of the agreements and the negotiating effort they entail (at both the human and the material levels) means that the entity indicated for negotiating and materializing such agreements is the EU;
– on the other hand, these agreements are of a reasonable cost and serve, not only to facilitate the access of the Community fleet to the resources needed, but also to increase economic development and job creation among the local populations of third countries. It must be said that tuna agreements are at the base of the EC-ACP contacts and that the countries whose ports host these vessels derive the benefits from all related activities: landing, transshipment, refueling, maintenance, repairs, etc.
Another important element to be taken into account is the Community compensatory allowance scheme, last amended in December 1994, with a view to simplification and optimization.
The compensatory allowance for tuna was created in 1970 to compensate the Community producers for the disadvantages which the regime had induced for the import of tuna as raw material for the processing industry.
In order for this industry to be competitive with products manufactured in third countries, it was decided to completely eliminate import duties on tuna used as raw material.
In fact, this industry uses mainly imported raw material whereas producers can not benefit from any type of Community preference.
In the event of a reduction in import prices, Community producers shall receive an allowance for the purpose of providing them with a level of income, under specified conditions, for the share of products sold in the Community. In this system of compensation based on a Community producer price, the Council sets annually on a proposal from the Commission taking into account the average prices of the last three marketing years.
When the market price falls within one quarter below 91% of the Community production price, the Commission must apply the compensatory allowances system.

International institutions and organizations

Third, we must not forget to mention here the importance of international organizations dealing with tuna fishing. The exclusive competence exercised by the Commission in the fisheries sector has made its presence indispensable in these fora.
The Commission actively contributes to scientific work and participates as an observer in the meetings of the international organizations below, as well as in the elaboration of recommendations aimed at guaranteeing the exploitation of rationalization of tuna resources in EEZs:
– International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic and Mediterranean Tunas (ICCAT). The Community has negotiated its membership in this organization and awaits approvals for its registration as a full member;
– Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), which concentrates its activity in the Eastern Pacific and whose latest work has had a direct impact on the problem of catching dolphins during tuna fishing.
On the other hand, in recent years the Community has financed the work of the International Program for the Assessment of Indian Ocean Tuna Resources (IPTP), set up under the auspices of the United Nations with the hope of setting up the Commission Indian Ocean Tuna (IOTC), itself created in 1993 by the FA 0 and of which the Commission is a full member.
The first session of this Commission will be held in Rome on 3 and 6 December 1996 and will enable important decisions to be taken on its future.
So far, the relevant international tuna fisheries organizations have not reported any particular problem in the protection of the various species of tropical tuna fished by the Community fleet.
If one refers to the ecological aspects inherent in this fishery, it is useful to recall once again that the EU prohibits its vessels from catching tuna in association with dolphins and that this fishing technique is and it has never been used by the Community fleet.
An annual observers boarding program aboard Spanish and French boats have been implemented with Community funding. It will provide a better understanding of the ecological circumstances of tuna fishing in the seines, especially with regard to interaction with dolphins.
Thus, it is planned to set up an observation program to study the increase of juvenile yellowfin and bigeye tuna in the fishing of these species with floating objects.
In summary, the existence of a competitive tropical tuna fleet is important for a variety of reasons. On the one hand, it is a sector which contributes significantly to the supply of the Community market and which is of great economic and social importance (both for the indirect jobs and the jobs generated. in shipbuilding) is more than measurable for the fisheries economy of certain Community regions.
On the other hand, this sector fulfills an important political function in relations with developing countries, especially the ACP countries, and in all the international forums in which the Community is represented, without mentioning the geopolitical role implied by it. its presence in various oceans of the world.
Despite the great crisis that the Community shipowners had to face, it must be pointed out that the sector has adapted to the new economic situation and has become competitive again.

The canning industry

The fishery and aquaculture processing industry is a relatively marginal part of the European economic environment. In fact, it represents only 0.09% of the GDP of the Community; 0.3% of industrial GDP and 2.2% of the agri-food sector. Nevertheless, since it usually focuses on landing sites, its importance should be assessed primarily at the local and regional levels.
Community production exceeds 2.2 million tonnes (finished products) and is close to 8 400 million ECU.
Most of the fish and aquaculture processing industry is made up of SMEs. In 1991, there were 2,200 firms with a total employment volume of about 92,000, that is, an average of 42 employees per enterprise. The United Kingdom, Germany, and Spain account for more than half of the Community’s employment in the sector. Only about twenty companies are in a leading position in the market, of which the top five account for a quarter of the market.
Community production of the canned tuna industry reached 273 000 tonnes in 1992, of which Spain accounted for 40% Italy 34%, France 19% and Portugal 6%.
In 1995, the production of tuna and albacore canning in Spain amounted to 130 000 tonnes, which shows that the market for this product is in full development and enjoys a favorable image among consumers… For this reason, Senegal is probably the leading country for the production of canned tuna at the community level (although still far from other countries such as Thailand and the United States).
When looking at the European Union’s external trade, exports are low (13 000 t). Imports in 1995 were of the order of 217 000 tonnes, raising apparent consumption to around 480 000 tonnes.
According to these figures, it is clear that the Community tuna canning market is extraordinarily attractive and profitable.
Nevertheless, the competitiveness of the sector requires a reduction in production costs, among which the raw material and the labor force are to be favored.
An element of utmost importance for the economic balance of the Community tuna sector is the total autonomous suspension of customs duties corresponding to tuna used as raw material in industry.
This suspension is fundamental and should enable the Community industry to compete with the Southeast Asian countries, whose production has been growing at a very high rate in recent years.
In addition, it must be borne in mind that although Community raw material production is theoretically enough to supply EU industry, the reality is that the tuna market is globalizing and It is no longer often possible to buy and sell in the Community.
In 1992, for the first time, imports gained the upper hand in supplying the Community market for processing imports (51%) compared to 49% of Community production. This situation may be due to the fact that the purchase price paid by processors is lower than that offered by Community shipowners, namely that they obtain a lower price on export sales. – station.
On the other hand, the need to cope with the high volumes of canned tuna imports, manufactured with cheap labor, has forced the canning industry in recent years to reduce its costs by employing semi-elaborated tuna loins, instead of frozen whole tuna.
In 1994, Community imports of tuna loins from all third countries amounted to 30 207 tonnes, of which about 5000 tonnes came from Thailand and the Philippines and most of the rest came from the GSP countries. or ACP, countries that can export duty-free. The most important of these countries are Colombia (9,802 tons) and Ecuador (7,876 volumes), to which we can add, again in 1994, Costa Rica with 1664 tons.
In 1995, exports from these three countries to the European Union amounted to 5,660 tonnes from Colombia, 8,640 tonnes from Ecuador and 916 tonnes from Costa Rica. Total imports of tuna loins in 1996 were 30 962 tonnes.
In general, the trampling of loins imports is observed.

The system of Generalized Preferences

The new regulation on the system of generalized preferences for agricultural and fishery products, which will apply from 1 January to 30 June 1999, provides for the exemption from customs duties for tuna fillets originating in the Member States. of the Andean Pact and Central America.
It might be objected that an increase in the use of lanyards may result in a decrease in the use of community labor. For sure. But it is no less certain that the closure and relocation of Community industries to countries where labor is cheaper creates a crisis of job loss, the consequences of which would be even more serious. In fact, the relocation of the tuna industries has already taken place not only in other third countries (USA) but also in Community countries such as France.
On the other hand, we can not forget that the political objective pursued by the GSP drug regime which is not to supply the Community market, but to collaborate in the creation of “alternative jobs D in the producing countries drug.
This effort applies not only to Community shipowners and canners but also more broadly to the agricultural and industrial sectors of the European Union.
As for canned tuna, the new GSP Regulation provides for a strengthening of the safeguard clause so that customs duties can be re-established, after examination of the situation, for a given country, if the imports from that country and benefit from of this preferential scheme, exceed the annual average of exports for the last three years.

The Gatt and the Structural Instruments (FIFG)

Similarly, it seems appropriate to recall here that the legal situations corresponding to tuna used as raw material and canned tuna are not comparable. The suspension of duties that applies to tuna used as raw material is autonomous. Therefore, the Community has the legal possibility of restoring these rights within the bounds of GATT bindings. Notwithstanding, at the end of 1992 the Council decided to maintain the suspension of customs duties. Customs duties on canned tuna have been consolidated in GA’IT, whereas quota setting is a transitional measure that can not be converted into a definitive measure to restrict imports without breaching trade-offs international organizations. The setting of quotas is a limited measure, as the quantities increase progressively by about 10% per year, and this system will disappear on 1 January 1997.
Structurally, it has to be said that since the beginning of 1994, Community interventions in the processing and marketing of fishery products have been made in the FIFG market.
They mainly contribute to the co-financing of investments centered on:
– improvement of quality and hygiene in production and marketing processes;
– the restructuring and modernization of enterprises in crisis, avoiding, as far as possible, the risk of creating excess production;
the promotion of technological innovations and the development of new products.
In line with the principles of the reform of the Structural Funds, it is now up to the national authorities, in association with the Commission, to concretize the priorities of the intervention and the allocation of budgetary resources between the different sectors.
The importance attached to improving the processing and marketing conditions by this programming instrument is demonstrated by the budget allocated, which is close to ECU 600 million, that is to say, 22% of the staffing of IFOP.


The tuna Community policy has achieved positive overall results during the past decade (the in- station of the Community tuna fleet – became the first world fleet – and maintaining an acceptable level of competitiveness in the processing sector, through the approvisionnement duty free), despite the serious crises while the sectors of production and processing are highly inter-dependent dent, canned representing the main outlet for the Community fleet of frozen tuna.
The fact that production and processing are complementary and that the very survival of the sector depends on the competitiveness of each of the elements of this binomial is one of the Community’s assets in the face of the third countries which have based their strategy on only one of these elements.

Why is bluefin tuna returning to Northern Europe?

The species had suddenly disappeared from the Channel and North Sea waters in the 1960s before reappearing in recent years. The sign that the species has regained strength? Not necessarily answer marine biologists …

Four hundred kilograms on average in adulthood for three meters long … Difficult for an Atlantic bluefin tuna to go unnoticed, especially since the fish has a habit of moving on a bench… So when the latter points again the end of a gill in the Channel and the North Sea, 50 years after having left this zone, inevitably the news spreads like wildfire (or plankton to stay in the marine register).


It is not unusual to see it in the Iroise Sea, not far from Brest, reported at the end of August the local newspaper Telegram. He was also spotted in the North Sea, off the coast of Scandinavia, DutchNews enthused in September 2017, hoping to see him soon arrive in Dutch waters.


An invitation to increase fishing quotas?

Many see in this return the success of the emergency recovery plan adopted from 2007 in the Mediterranean and Atlantic, after the observation of a collapse of bluefin tuna populations until the 2000s after years of intensive fishing. There has been no moratorium, but a drastic reduction in fishing quotas [catch levels over a year] quickly doubled with increased controls in boats and markets to deter illegal fishing.


Since the bluefin tuna has regained strength, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (Cicta), the intergovernmental body that fixes each November the quotas for Atlantic bluefin tuna and Mediterranean bluefin tuna for the year following, has marked the passage of a recovery plan to a management plan of the species, which will result in a gradual increase in quotas to reach 36,000 tonnes in 2020 [against 23,655 in 2017 and 12,000 tonnes in 2011].


Just a new geographical distribution?

A good idea? An international team of scientists, led by marine biologist Robin Faillettaz, then a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Lille, calls for more caution in a study published this month in the scientific journal Science Advances. “We are not questioning the finding of an increase in the abundance of bluefin tuna today,” says Robin Failletaz. But its presence in Northern Europe does not translate into an increase in the total abundance of Atlantic bluefin tuna. In other words, this reappearance of the bluefin tuna in the English Channel and the North Sea would only translate a new geographical distribution of the species, returning to waters which are again favorable to it.


This is the original question of the authors of the study who, in order to answer it, have peeled the intensity of catches of bluefin tuna in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean for several centuries and the changes in the spatial distribution of the species… This is not the first time that bluefin tuna suddenly desert an area. “At the beginning of the 1960s, the North Sea fisheries had almost collapsed from one year to the next as a result of a sudden decrease in bluefin tuna in the area,” says Robin Faillettaz. The stock of fish was probably already overexploited, but this factor alone could not explain this sudden disappearance of the North Sea. To tell the truth, no one was able to explain it clearly. ”


The multidecadal Atlantic oscillation to take into account

The authors of the study then looked at another parameter, totally independent of the man. The Multidecial Atlantic Oscillation (AMO). This is a natural oscillation of ocean surface temperatures observed in the North Atlantic. This oscillation alternates warm phases and cold phases that can spread over periods of 40 to 80 years. “Sometimes, the transition is brutal, sometimes it is more progressive, complete Robin Faillettaz. And the temperature differences between a hot phase and a cold phase of the AMO are slightly lower than 1 ° C. ”


A small degree that can still cause changes. This multi-decadal Atlantic oscillation could thus influence the intensity and frequency of hurricanes [we were talking about it here], the intensity and direction of ocean currents, precipitation events, but also have consequences for biological systems. “Like the primary production of plankton, which is very sensitive to water temperature, or the abundance of certain small pelagic fish, such as anchovies and sardines,” adds Robin Failletaz.


“A compromise between the abundance of food and energy expenditure”

It would also have an effect on the distribution of bluefin tuna, a migratory species capable of traveling thousands of kilometers to find food. “It’s a compromise he has to find between energy dependence and foraging,” says the marine biologist. The ideal water temperature for the species is around 21 ° C, but it can withstand colder waters, up to 4 or 5 ° C. But in these cold areas, the energy expenditure of bluefin tuna is greater. If they can not compensate with abundant food, they will look elsewhere. ”


This is what would have happened in the early 1960s when bluefin tuna almost disappeared year after year from the waters of the North Sea. “This is precisely the fastest and most intense transition ever seen in the AMO phases,” says Robin Failletaz. In just two years, the AMO has gone from its warmest intensity to its strongest cold intensity. ”


In a hot phase since 1995

The study published in Science Advances then establishes a sort of general framework for the geographical distribution of bluefin tuna in the North Atlantic. In a positive (warm) phase of AMO, bluefin tuna travels to Greenland, Iceland, and Norway in search of food and becomes scarce in southern and central Atlantic North. In the negative (cold) phase, the species is more likely to explore the tropics (West, Central, and South Atlantic) and seldom cross the 45 ° N latitude. ”


Since 1995, the multi-decadal Atlantic Oscillation is again in the positive phase of its cycle, which would explain the gradual reappearance of Channel and North Sea bluefin tuna. Until when? “It is impossible to say when the AMO will switch back to a cold phase as the overall increase in temperatures could counterbalance the AMO’s next cold phase,” says Robin Faillettaz. This natural phenomenon is still relatively little studied by the scientific community. The first publications that examined the impact of AMO on biological systems date back to the mid-2000s alone. This oscillation of temperatures could very well also affect the geographical distribution of other migratory fish species. Other species of tuna, marlin, shark species, dolphinfish … ”


Be that as it may, the authors of the study urge not to hastily accede to the increase in bluefin tuna quotas simply because the species would have returned to an area it had neglected.

Global Fish and Seafood Market to Grow Until 2020 According to MarketLine

The global seafood market has grown steadily over the last few years, recording a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.8% between 2011 and 2015, according to the data …

Marketline’s latest report shows that market values ​​have increased in all regions. Global growth, however, is driven primarily by Asia-Pacific and South America, where the middle class is starting to buy more expensive products through the organized retail channel. Despite this, the United States is still the most important market, and it is important for the global market that this US market continues to grow.


Marketline analyst Nicholas Wyatt explains, “The United States is the largest market in value for fish and seafood, accounting for 13.9% of global revenue. US public health agencies recommend eating two parts of fish a week, even though these tips are not available in the United States alone. ”


Asia-Pacific at the forefront of this growth

The global market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 3.9% between 2015 and 2020, helped by an increase in health awareness and desire for quality seafood among consumers. Volumes are growing at a slightly slower pace than stocks, demonstrating the impact of increased values ​​in developing markets. In fact, the difference in growth rate between volume and value is greater in Asia-Pacific than it is globally, providing further evidence that high-end products are driving the market in this region.


The question of sustainability at the heart of the process

For Nicholas Wyatt, “the future looks bright for the seafood market, but producers need to pay attention to sustainability issues, responsible fishing, this is key to the future health of the market. Overfishing or an overcrowded overpopulated disease, as we have seen in Chile, can cause health problems and impact consumer confidence. ”


Although forecasts must be treated with some caution, the current outlook for fish and the global seafood market suggests that the future will be bright.