NOAA 2000-R108
Contact: Stephanie Dorezas


The National Marine Fisheries Service wants to track and monitor the trade of Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish to better protect it from being over exploited, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today. Much of the fishing for toothfish is managed internationally by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, an organization charged with conserving marine life in the southern ocean.

According to officials at NOAA Fisheries, during the 1990's, restaurants and markets in the U.S. began to sell toothfish under the name "Chilean Sea Bass." Within a few years, toothfish became a popular restaurant dish.

"Consumers need to know that the fish that finds its way to market is either Patagonian or Antarctic toothfish and is harvested throughout the southern ocean, both legally and illegally," said Gary Matlock, director of Sustainable Fisheries Office for the Fisheries Service. "The rate at which this resource is being exploited is alarming and unsustainable. The scale of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing for toothfish is a very serious conservation and management concern ."

A number of conservation and management measures addressing illegal and unregulated fishing on toothfish have been adopted by the CCAMLR over the last three years. These measures have included flag state licensing of fishing vessels, annual catch quotas, vessel monitoring systems, and identification of fishing gear. However, despite increased inspections and sanctions in recent years, toothfish landings have been estimated at up to twice the level of the CCAMLR regulated fisheries.

At the November 1999 CCAMLR meeting, the commission adopted a Catch Documentation Scheme for toothfish. The CDS is a trade tracking and monitoring measure requiring that all landings, transhipment, and importation of toothfish into CCAMLR member countries be accompanied by a catch tracking document. The purpose of the catch documentation scheme is to monitor international trade, identify the origins of imports, and to determine if imports were caught consistent with CCAMLR conservation measures.

"Today's proposed rule is intended to implement the United States' obligation as a CCAMLR member to conserve Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish,"said Matlock. "Tracking and monitoring this import product will discourage unlawful harvest and give consumers confidence that they seafood they eat is legally and sustainably caught."

The proposed rule implements a CCAMLR requirement that requires all parties receiving, importing, or exporting toothfish to submit a catch document to NOAA Fisheries for all toothfish. The catch document will specify a range of information relating to the volume and location of catch and the name and flag state of the vessel. Dealer permits would also be required for the import and export of toothfish whether harvested within or outside CCAMLR waters. A permit to tranship toothfish, wherever harvested, will be required as well. Each CCAMLR member shall ensure that its customs authorities or other appropriate officials request and examine the import documentation of each shipment of toothfish to verify that it includes the export catch documents that account for all of the toothfish contained in the shipment.

A copy of the proposed rule is available on the Internet at: Comments on the proposed rule should be mailed or faxed to Dean Swanson, International Fisheries Division, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910; fax (301)713-2313. Comments must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. on April 7, 2000 (30 days after publication date.)

CCAMLR came into force in 1982, as part of the Antarctic Treaty System. The aim of the convention is to conserve marine life in the southern ocean. This does not exclude harvesting as long as such harvesting is carried out in a sustainable manner. The southern ocean surrounds the continent of Antarctica. The Antarctic Convergence, which is formed where the cold Antarctic waters meet the warmer waters to the north, outlines the southern ocean and acts as an effective biological barrier, making it a substantially closed ecosystem. Each member of the CCAMLR is involved in fishing or research in the southern ocean, or both, and through the commission, these operations are coordinated and regulated to fulfil members' obligations under the convention.