Illegal Toothfish still on the plate
Wednesday, November 5, 2008 at 21:29
TRAFFIC in Fisheries

WWF and TRAFFIC call for tougher measures against illegal fishing

The Antarctic Toothfish is so valuable it is sometimes referred to as "White Gold"; better measures are needed to stop those catching toothfish illegally Click photo to enlarge © Stuart Hanchet, NIWA, New Zealand  Hobart, Australia, 5 November 2008--WWF and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, are calling for enhanced monitoring measures and for trade sanctions to be imposed against countries continuing to undermine the conservation measures for toothfish.

The future of the Patagonian and Antarctic Toothfish and the highly valuable fishery based on them concentrated in the Southern Ocean, is under significant pressure from illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

According to a study released today by TRAFFIC, IUU fishing is severely undermining protection of these valuable species which are overseen by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

The new study, Continuing CCAMLR’S Fight Against IUU Fishing For Toothfish (PDF, 1.4 MB), will be presented to CCAMLR at its meeting in Hobart on October 27 to November 5. The report found that between 2004 and 2007, the percentage of trade represented by IUU catch averaged 17 per cent, compared to CCAMLR’s average estimate of 10 per cent of total landings.

“While estimates of IUU catch for recent years are much lower than when we last assessed the situation in 2001, they still represent significant IUU catch. This needs to be accounted for and reduced by CCAMLR through further intervention as this catch continues to represent a serious threat to the conservation of toothfish,” said Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Global Marine Programme Leader.

“Clearly much greater pressure needs to be put on countries that allow their vessels to engage in illegal fishing and the imposition of trade sanctions against these countries is the next step that CCAMLR must take,” Sant added.

Fetching prices of up to USD35 per kilogramme, Toothfish has earned the name “white gold” among fishers. The global black market for Toothfish is estimated by WWF to be worth USD200 million a year.

“We need to protect the Toothfish not the pirates,” Rob Nicoll, WWF-­Australia’s Antarctic & Southern Ocean Initiative Manager said.

“Even when patrolling of territorial waters has been effective, it simply results in the pirates shifting to unpatrolled high seas areas. Stricter regulation of trade would assist enforcement—the pirates wouldn't go after the toothfish if they couldn't sell their ill­-gotten gains.”

Nicoll added: “Three quarters of global fish stocks are seriously depleted or over­exploited, and pirate fishing is exacerbating the appalling situation—if we want to maintain a legal fishing industry, governments must act together to crack down on IUU fishing, patrolling is still a crucial part of that but needs complementing by trade controls, especially where high seas fishing is concerned.

“These findings reinforce the need for a range of complementary measures. This is the only way consumers can be assured that the fish on their plate is obtained legally,” Nicoll added.

“WWF and TRAFFIC want to see the governments attending CCAMLR this week take firm action to adopt and amend conservation measures to eradicate pirate fishing and the trade in fish derived from it.”

Further information:
WWF­Australia: Jonathon Larkin, Communications Co­-ordinator: +61 (0)0410 221 410,
TRAFFIC International: Dr Richard Thomas, Communications Co­-ordinator: +44 1223 279068


The Patagonian toothfish is commonly sold as: Merluza negra (Spain) Bacalao de profundidad (Spain and Chile) Chilean Sea Bass (US and Canada) Legine (France) Mero (Japan) Patagonian toothfish (UK) Butterfish (Mauritius)

The CCAMLR Member States are: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, European Community (EC), France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, UK, Ukraine, USA and Uruguay. States party to the Convention but not members of the Commission are: Bulgaria, Canada, Finland, Greece, the Netherlands, Peru and Vanuatu.

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