Austral Fisheries: Spanish fishing placing toothfish stocks in jeopardy

Published on
June 12, 2019

Spanish-flagged vessels are overfishing areas of the open ocean that aren’t governed by catch limits, damaging efforts to sustainably manage Patagonia toothfish stocks, according to Austral Fisheries.

The Mt. Hawthorn, Western Australia, Australia-based company said it has seen “a significant increase” in toothfish fishing by two Spanish-flagged vessels within the Southern Indian Ocean Fishing Agreement (SIOFA) area, but in “under-regulated areas without catch limits, bycatch limits, or agreed seabird mitigation measures, despite clear scientific evidence of the risks.”

“Since 2018 there has been a significant increase in toothfish fishing activity in the SIOFA area, with large catches taken by two Spanish-flagged vessels on Del Cano Rise and William’s Ridge. As recently as 10 June, 2019, the Spanish-flagged vessel, ISBA Quinto, was fishing without restraint on William’s Ridge, as it has done in the past two years,” Austral Fisheries said. “This under-regulated, limitless fishing continues to occur despite the SIOFA Scientific Committee’s agreement in March 2019 that toothfish catches on the SIOFA part of William’s Ridge are likely to result in a high risk of localized depletion in this area, as well as exceeding the total fishing mortality used by CCAMLR for this population. Austral Fisheries believe this undermines Spain’s obligations as a CCAMLR member and responsible fishing nation. “

CCAMLR, or the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, is empowered to enforce limits on fishing on the area around Antarctica. Del Cano Rise and William’s Ridge are located near well-managed toothfish fisheries around the Prince Edward, Marion, and Crozet Islands, and the Heard and McDonald Islands fisheries, but despite that, they are not governed by catch limits, bycatch limits, or agreed seabird mitigation measures, Austral Fisheries said.

The company is urging SIOFA to “urgently consider adopting temporary measures to regulate toothfish fishing” in the areas of Del Cano Rise and William’s Ridge, where there was no toothfish fishing as of 2016.

“Austral Fisheries is working with the Australian government and others to garner an international response to this critical issue, where it appears that Spain is knowingly allowing fishing which undermines the decades of effort by French and Australian governments, CCAMLR, and the wider fishing industry,” the company said.

Similar press has worked in the past, with Georgia Seafoods ceasing their toothfish fishing with their Spanish-flagged vessel, Tronio, in the SIOFA area following a previous report on their efforts was released in March 2019, according to Austral Fisheries.

Stocks of Patagonian toothfish, also known as Chilean sea bass, have recovered as a number of management efforts have been put in place to regulate the fishery. As a result, toothfish from Heard and McDonald Islands, the Falkland Islands, and Macquarie Island are now a Seafood Watch “best choice,” while fish from Ross Sea Antarctic, South Georgia and Kerguelen are ranked Seafood Watch “good alternatives.”

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