Tuna, from canned Bumble Bee to high-grade sashimi, is an estimated $42.2 billion global industry, according a new study from The Pew Charitable Trusts.

In “Netting Billions: A Global Valuation of Tuna,” the nonprofit attempted to measure how much cash commercial tuna fisheries produced in a given year by using catch and market metrics from 2012 and 2014.

Tuna is big business, especially in the Pacific.
Tuna is big business, especially in the Pacific. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The study breaks down catch and financial haul by each species of tuna, including skipjack, albacore, bluefin and bigeye. It also measures the tuna catch by the type of equipment used to bring in the fish. Bluefin tuna, for instance, fetches the highest price.

In 2012, commercial fishermen landed an estimated 4.6 metric tons of tuna worldwide for a total valuation — which includes dock value and total amount paid by the final consumer — of $41.6 billion. The haul in 2014 was even bigger, with fishermen landing an estimated 4.99 metric tons worth $42.2 billion.

Despite the economic gains, the Pew report warns that tuna populations are on the decline and that it’s important to manage the species effectively. For example, the nonprofit noted in a press release that Pacific bluefin populations have dipped to below 3 percent of the species’ historic size.

“All told, the value of tuna is greater than the gross domestic products of at least 108 countries,” said Amanda Nickson, Pew’s director of global tuna conservation. “Given the economic gains for coastal economies connected to the commercial industry, tuna is an asset that every government should make every effort to protect.”

Global tuna catch

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