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Scientific name: Katsuwonus pelamis
Authority: Linnaeus 1758
Common Name: skipjack tuna
Skipjack tuna live in oceanic surface waters throughout the Indian Ocean and Western and Central Pacific Ocean, except in areas where ocean depth is less than about 50m.
Skipjack is an important tuna species. Skipjack caught in the Asia-Pacific region contribute nearly half of total world tuna catch (all species) and about 80% of world skipjack catch. Over 70% of the total tuna catch of the Western and Central Pacific Ocean and about half that of the Indian Ocean is skipjack tuna.
Skipjack is heavily fished but is an abundant, very resilient species that is fast-growing, short-lived, and very fecund. The skipjack resource is not overfished. The resource is managed by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and national governments. International environment organizations and market controls have an influence on the governance of skipjack fisheries.
Skipjack is caught by local fishers and foreign licensed vessels using many different fishing gears, from traditional to industrial, including purse-seine, pole-and-line, ring nets, gillnets, hand lines and troll lines.
[Image SKJ-012 or SKJ-022] Skipjack is sold as canned tuna (90% of catch), with the better grade marketed as “light-meat tuna” mainly in Europe, the US and Australia/New Zealand. The remainder is sold fresh locally, dried-salted and smoked. Skipjack is canned in Thailand, Seychelles, Mauritius, Kenya, India (in the Indian Ocean) and Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji, American Samoa, Ecuador (in the Pacific Ocean). Product from the Indian and Pacific oceans is also canned in Spain, Germany and Venezuela. Wherever it occurs, skipjack is also an important locally consumed fish.
The skipjack fishery provides tens of thousands of jobs in fishing and processing – including for women – although many fishing crew and processing workers are low-paid and their work arduous. Pacific and Indian Ocean country governments receive substantial revenue from granting foreign fishing licences.
As food, skipjack is a very good source of low-fat protein and is low in sodium, but has a moderate level of cholesterol.
Skipjack fishing bycatch, mainly juveniles of other tuna species but also of sea turtles, sharks and other marine fish species, is a significant issue. Regional fish processing operations for skipjack (mainly by canning) also have negative effects on surrounding land and sea environments unless strictly managed.
Global warming affects the distribution and catchability of skipjack stocks.