Skipjack tuna is a “highly migratory species” – these fish are found around the world and can travel long distances. Unlike non-migratory species found only off our coasts, U.S. fishermen aren’t the only ones fishing for skipjack tuna. Fisheries for this species require cooperative international management to ensure the resource is abundant and global harvests are sustainable. While NOAA Fisheries is responsible for managing our domestic fisheries for skipjack tuna in the western Atlantic, the United States is also a member of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and negotiates with other member nations to enhance international management of skipjack tuna (along with other tunas, billfish, and sharks). ICCAT periodically monitors the abundance of Atlantic skipjack tuna. They evaluate the sustainability of current and proposed harvest practices and recommend management measures, if necessary.
Skipjack tuna isn’t a major focus of U.S. commercial tuna fisheries in the western Atlantic – annual skipjack harvests only make up about 1 percent of all of the Atlantic tunas brought to port by U.S. fishermen, and only a fraction of a percent of the Atlantic skipjack tuna harvested worldwide. Almost all of the U.S. commercial harvest of skipjack tuna comes from the Pacific (see Pacific skipjack tuna). Much of it is exported to foreign markets. Skipjack are primarily sold as “canned light tuna” but are also sold fresh or frozen. The United States imports most of the fresh and frozen skipjack tuna we eat, mainly from China, Mexico, the Philippines, and Panama. Most imports of canned tuna (not species-specific) come from Thailand, followed by Vietnam, Ecuador, and the Philippines.