TOOTHFISH, CONSERVATION AND OBSERVERS
The toothfish fishery in Antarctic waters targets two species - Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) and Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides). Toothfish grow up to two metres long and are a sought after table fish in the United States and Europe.
Fishing activity is regulated by an international body known as the Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). The amount of fish that can be caught for the year is set by member countries at the Commission’s annual meeting.
Companies and fishing vessels that want to fish for toothfish must apply to the Ministry of Fisheries for a permit and there is are very strict selection criteria. The number of New Zealand vessels granted access to fish in CCAMLR waters is decided by the Commission at its annual meeting.
New Zealand boats fishing in the CCAMLR area take two observers – one from the Ministry of Fisheries and one from another member country of CCAMLR.
The observers carry out CCAMLR’s research requirements which include tagging and releasing fish, biologically sampling fish, taking scientific specimens, recording sightings of seabirds and other animals and monitoring sightings of other fishing vessels.
Observers also monitor fishing practices and catch and the Ministry of Fisheries observers make sure boats adhere to the strict conservation rules for fishing in the Antarctic, particularly the storage of rubbish and taking measures to avoid any accidental catch of other species living in the area like seabirds.
As part of a vessel’s permit, observers can retain samples taken at sea, as was the case with the colossal squid now on display at Te Papa. It was retained by the Ministry observer on a Ross Sea toothfish trip with co-operation and ongoing logistical support from Sanford Ltd.
For more information on CCAMLR and international management of the toothfish fishery please visit the CCAMLR website at http://www.ccamlr.org.