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Patagonian toothfish

The Patagonian toothfish, species Dissostichus eleginoides (also known as Chilean Sea Bass) is a fish found in the cold, temperate waters (between depths of to ) of the Southern Atlantic, Southern Pacific, Indian, and Southern Oceans on seamounts and continental shelves around most sub-Antarctic islands.

A close relative, the Antarctic toothfish , is found farther south around the edges of the Antarctic shelf; it also lives in the Ross Sea.

The average weight of a commercially caught Patagonian toothfish is with large adults occasionally exceeding . They are thought to live up to fifty years and to reach a length up to . A commercial fishery exists for Patagonian toothfish; the meat is sold under the trade names Chilean sea bass in the USA; 'in Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay where it is relatively cheap; and ' in Japan where it is sold at high prices.

The species is also referred to as Patagonsky klykach.

Patagonian toothfish feed largely on squid, fish, and prawns and, in turn, constitute a large part of the diets of sperm whales, Southern Elephant Seals, and colossal squid.

It is reported as the only known predator of Lissodelphis peronii, a small slender delphinid known as the southern right-whale dolphin.

Legal fishing

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issues compliance numbers to vessels that legally catch Patagonian toothfish.

France severely regulates Patagonian toothfish in the waters surrounding the French islands in the South Indian Ocean , with scientific oversight from the National museum of natural history Fishing authorizations are granted to a limited number of fisheries from Reunion Island; before 1998 there had been agreements with other countries authorizing their ships to fish in these waters.Terres australes et antarctiques francaises, Peche dans les subantarctiques

The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) supervises legal Patagonian toothfish harvesting.

Illegal fishing

According to Seafood Watch, the Chilean sea bass is currently on the list of fish that American consumers who are sustainability-minded should avoid.

The illegal capture and sale of the Patagonian toothfish has led to several arrests and fines.

Illegal overfishing threatens the species in some areas as the fish is slow-growing and reaches maturity between ten and twelve years of age.

In the last few years, the management of several fisheries has improved with increased patrolling for illegal vessels and stringent regulations for legal operators. Although overfishing and illegal 'pirate fishing' are still problems in places, the Marine Stewardship Council has certified the fishery in South Georgia for sustainable management. South Georgia has the largest toothfish fishery, with a TAC (Total Allowable Catch) of around 3000 tonnes per year, taken by approximately ten vessels.

Illegal catches may be up to five times the legal catch limit. As a direct result some researchers have predicted a total collapse of the fishery within two to five years. Called the white gold of the Southern Ocean, illegal toothfish catches are unloaded at so-called "pirate ports" in countries such as Namibia and Mauritius. The fish are then sold on the black market, a single sashimi-grade specimen fetching as much as USD $1,000.

The Patagonian toothfish lives in deep waters, from on seamounts and continental shelves around most sub-Antarctic islands, such as the exclusive economic zone of the French Southern Territories (Kerguelen Islands) and around South Africa's Prince Edward Islands, and Australia's Heard Island and McDonald Islands. In the past, France sold some fishing rights to Japanese and other foreign fisheries; because of overfishing, now fishing is reserved for fisheries from Reunion Island. Because of poaching, the French Navy patrols the zone and has made numerous arrests and seizures. Australian Customs vessels have pursued illegal toothfishing ships, the chase in the Viarsa incident went on for 7200 kilometers.

Illegal fishing for toothfish in the Southern Ocean is hazardous not only for the fish themselves, but for other wildlife in and around the waters. According to The Antarctica Project, "It is common practice in the illegal fishery to dynamite the [Sperm and Killer] whales when they are discovered in the area where the fishing takes place"Antarctica Project, The., Secretariat for the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, The. 2001, April. Newsletter IUCN. 2003. Dolphins, Whales and Porpoises and "hundreds of thousands of endangered albatrosses and petrels dive for the [fish] bait and become hooked and drowned." The longline fishery has also been criticized for drowning thousands of seabirds such as albatrosses.

Australian fisheries

In Australia, two companies are licensed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) to fish for Patagonian toothfish. The companies have legal access to the Heard Island and McDonald Islands fishery, and have quotas set by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. Austral Fisheries is the larger of the two companies.

3260 tonnes of the annual 3360 tonnes caught in Australian Antarctic waters is sold overseas, mainly to Japanese and US markets.

Sustainable consumption

In 2010, Greenpeace International has added the patagonian toothfish to its seafood red list. "The Greenpeace International seafood red list is a list of fish that are commonly sold in supermarkets around the world, and which have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries."


Clover, Charles. 2004. The End of the Line: How overfishing is changing the world and what we eat. Ebury Press, Africa and London. ISBN 0-09-189780-7

Knecht, G. Bruce. 2006. Hooked: Pirates, Poaching, and the Perfect Fish. Rodale Books, New York. ISBN 1-59486-110-2

External links

BBC News: Toothfish at risk from illegal catches

Traffic.org: Patagonian Toothfish: Are Conservation and Trade Measures Working?

Patagonian toothfish at CSIRO

WGBH Forum Network: Hooked; Pirates, Poaching and the Perfect Fish G. Bruce Knecht, senior reporter, Wall Street Journal [*]

U.S. Dept. of Commerce Chilean Sea Bass Frequently Asked Questions

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Patagonian toothfish

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