What are Chilean Sea Bass? Where are they found?

The Chilean Sea Bass, Patagonian/Antarctic Toothfish or deep-sea cod (Dissostichus eleginoides) is a zoological species of toothfish, which belongs to the family Nototheniidae.

It is dark grey on its back and flanks, with the color clearing in the belly. It has a very long lifespan, reaching up to 50 years, and measures up to 2.5 meters. It lives in rocky areas with strong currents. It can reach depths of 2500 meters.

Chilean Sea Bass live in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, southwest Atlantic and Southern Ocean, including the Patagonian coast, the Falkland Islands, Macquarie Island, South Georgia, other sub-Antarctic islands.

When did the Chilean Sea Bass fishery start and how has it increased over the years?

Since the start of fishing activity in sub-Antarctic waters in the early 1970s, toothfish have been a minor by-catch species in the trawl fisheries for marbled rock cod and grey rock cod, particularly around South Georgia and the Kerguelen Islands. It was only in 1985 that commercial quantities of toothfish were discovered at Kerguelen. There had, however, been a substantial fishery off the Chilean coast since the mid-1970s, so markets were already established for this species. Since then, the fishery for this species developed rapidly and expanded to other areas, including South Georgia, Marion and Prince Edward Islands, and Crozet Islands. In 1994 an Australian trawl fishery began at Macquarie Island, followed by the establishment of a fishery at Heard Island in 1997. Although it started as a trawl fishery, most toothfish are now caught by longline, except for the Australian fishery and part of the French fishery at Kerguelen.

A longline fishery for Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) has been operating within the sub-area CCAMLR 88.1 from summer 1996 to 1997 when only one vessel fished there. Since that time this exploratory fishery has expanded, with a maximum of 21 vessels in 2003/04, 13 vessels in 2005/06, and 15 in 2006/07. The exploratory fishery has also spread in the sub-area 88.2 and a research trip took place in the sub-area 88.3 (Patchell, 2005).

Which nations are leading the Chilean Sea Bass fishery?

Argentina, France, Chile, Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Korea and Uruguay are the primary countries harvesting Chilean Sea Bass. They fish in the waters of Antarctica and in the national waters of nearby countries.

Which nations are the biggest consumers of Chilean Sea Bass?

The United States, Japan, and the European Union are the major markets.

What is the impact on the ecosystem?

The Patagonian toothfish is a big fish, over 200 kilograms and 2.3 meters long, that has a long life cycle (they live up to 50 years, reaching sexual maturity at 20 years), making it very vulnerable to overfishing.

Toothfish live in deep waters and play an important role in the ecosystem of the Southern Ocean, both as predator and as prey. Extensive research is ongoing in some areas to find out how many toothfish can be removed from the present population without disrupting the balance of nature. Some populations of toothfish are healthier and more abundant than others.

What side effects are brought on from fishing toothfish?

Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing has increased in recent decades, obliterating some populations of toothfish. Furthermore, in certain cases unmodified bottom longlines are used, which hook and drown thousands of seabirds each year, including the albatross, which is endangered.

Objetives:

  • Develop an awareness campaign on the toothfish fishery.
  • Make a database with establishments that sell toothfish in the region.
  • Organize seminars and conferences to alert the public about the status of toothfish.
  • Request that restaurants, shops and television channels stop marketing the consumption of toothfish.