Tuna Regions

Tuna is mostly fished in the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, and processed in these regions as well as in Europe.

Ever since the first trips to explore tropical tuna fishing waters in the Gulf of Guinea in 1953-1954, the European tuna industry has steadily developed. Eurothon members are now present in three regions: Europe, Africa, and Latin America.

The EU tuna fleet is composed of 30 Spanish and 22 French purse seiner vessels. In the EU, the EU tuna processing industry can answer around 50% of EU demand for canned tuna.


The European Union has set a wide range of rules concerning fisheries. Fishing activities of Eurothon members are highly regulated and controlled according to EU rules for sustainable fishing, laid down in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and related legislation. EU-flagged vessels are required to abide by the EU’s rules in EU waters and beyond EU borders, meaning its standards reach across the globe. (To learn more on EU rules, controls and compliance, please visit our section detailing the measures in place).

There are more than a hundred establishments that process tuna in the EU. The EU tuna processing industry is currently based mainly in four countries – Spain, Italy, France and Portugal.

ACP countries

In addition, many EU companies have invested in processing plants in African countries. European tuna producers that operate in the Central Eastern Atlantic and the Central Western Indian Ocean deliver a large part of their production to canneries located in several ports in African countries belonging to the African Caribbean and Pacific countries which benefits from special trade relations with the European Union to support their development. The same applies to the dozen mixed EU-ACP fishing vessels.

The main areas of activity are in the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Senegal, Madagascar, the Seychelles, Mauritius and Kenya. In total, there are about 15 processing sites, representing a crucial pillar of local economic development. They provide tens of thousands of jobs locally, usually in combination with community support, while EU obligations for hygiene, safety or labour standards are strictly adhered to. These canned tuna products are mostly exported to the EU market. To support the economic development of ACP countries, many of these canned products benefit from preferential EU import tariffs.

In addition, the EU has concluded many sustainable fisheries partnership agreements with coastal African ACP countries, ensuring that tuna stocks are fished sustainably by EU-flagged boats under strict rules, fishing licenses and against a fair retribution paid by European companies to the partner countries based on the amount of fish caught. To learn more about EU sustainable fisheries partnership agreements with third countries, click here.

Latin America

The EU’s trade system stimulated EU operators to invest in Latin-American tuna fleets and processing plants, near the large Eastern Pacific tuna fishing zones.

The EU tuna industry has made important direct investments in several of those countries. Tuna processing by Eurothon members occurs in more than 30 processing sites, located mainly in Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador, and Panama. Due to the importance of the tuna sector for the economy of many Latin American countries, and in order to ensure the stability and continuity of the activity generated under this trade regime, it is vital to maintain and consolidate trade relations with the region.