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Sustainability in the Southern Ocean Fisheries:

The Case of the Patagonian Toothfish

Introduction

The Southern Ocean is a hostile marine environment. It is also a place of great beauty that contains unique fish, bird, mammal and coral species, and thousands of invertebrates, plants and micro-organisms – many of which we know little about or which are endemic and occur nowhere else in the world.

 

The Southern Ocean also contains a wealth of natural marine resources that include the Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) fishery. This fishery has come under increasing pressure since the 1980s and 1990s as fishers have harvested stocks to meet the demands of an increasing world population and an insatiable desire by consumers to eat white-fleshed fish. Given the demand for Patagonian toothfish, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing of these stocks has flourished, and the incidental mortality of seabirds in this longline fishery threatens many endangered albatross species.

 

Like other global ecosystems, the Southern Ocean ecosystems are fragile and vulnerable to human exploitation. Therefore it is us, as international actors of influence, who are crucial for sustainability outcomes and for the conservation of the Patagonian toothfish and other Southern Ocean species.

 

This Internet series focuses on issues of sustainability in the Southern Ocean fisheries, with specific reference to the Patagonian toothfish. It is drawn from a larger report for the Lighthouse Foundation (available in PDF format), and includes:

 

The Southern Ocean - a description

The Southern Ocean was identified and named by Captain James Cook in the 1760s and its discovery predated that of Antarctica. This ocean constitutes about 15 per cent of the world’s total ocean surface and has a total area of about 28 million square...

 

Exploitation of marine resources in the Southern Ocean

The major living resources in the Southern Ocean are whales, seals, birds, fish, krill and squid. The use of these resources goes back over two centuries and it has been characterized by progressive over-harvesting...

 

Large-scale commercial marine harvesting

Krill harvesting began in the late 1960s, and a commercial fishery started in the 1972/73 season among Soviet and Japanese fleets. The main fishing grounds are to the east of South Georgia, around the South Orkney Islands and Antarctic Peninsula...

 

Antarctica and the Antarctic Treaty System (ATS)

Until the Antarctic Treaty came into force in 1961, the International Whaling Commission was the only international body endeavouring to manage the exploitation of Southern Ocean marine species...

 

The case of the Patagonian toothfish

The Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) is a large pelagic predator, belonging to the family Nototheniidae. It is widely distributed and occurs off islands and banks in the Southern Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans ...

 

Pressures on the Patagonian toothfish

Soviet fishing fleets discovered commercial quantities of Patagonian toothfish off the Kerguelen Islands in 1985. After the introduction of longlining in 1985/86 around South Georgia, exploitation of larger, mature and older fish from areas inaccessi...

 

Impacts of fishing techniques

Fishers use various techniques to harvest marine species in the Southern Ocean. Fishing for Patagonian toothfish is conducted by trawling and longlining, although some pot fishing has been tried...

 

Trade in the Patagonian toothfish

Restaurant quality white flesh, few bones, firm musculature and oil-rich flesh have made the Patagonian toothfish a popular eating species. Indeed, such is the demand that over 90 per cent of toothfish products enter into international trade...

 

International actors in the management

At an international level CCAMLR State Parties are taking steps to respond to the problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing but each step is slow...

 

Global sustainability and the Southern Ocean

Sustainability is an ethic of engagement related to questions of how to live and it is a set of substantive and procedural guidelines about managing our activities on the biosphere...

 

The authors