(Heard and McDonald Islands, Falkland Islands, Macquarie Island, Longline)
Chilean Seabass (Patagonian toothfish) from Heard and McDonald Islands, the Falkland Islands and Macquarie Island is a "Best Choice." Ross Sea Antarctic toothfish and Patagonian toothfish from South Georgia and Kerguelen are "Good Alternatives." Toothfish from Crozet Islands, Prince Edward and Marion Islands, and Chile are on the "Avoid" list.
Four toothfish fisheries are certified as sustainable to the standard of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) .
Black Hake, Icefish, Patagonian Toothfish
Environmental Defense Fund has issued a consumption advisory for Chilean seabass due to elevated levels of mercury.
These recommendations cover approximately 78% of the reported global toothfish catch. Toothfish is commonly sold and marketed as Chilean Seabass.
Populations of toothfish vary by region and some populations are more healthy and abundant than others. In well-managed fisheries, catch limits are set after careful review of data from landings and independent assessments of population health. Toothfish on the "Avoid" list have populations that range from uncertain, to depleted, to overfished.
This fishery is well-known for illegal - so-called "pirate" fishing. But thanks to numerous enforcement measures in recent years, most regions are now free from this activity. The U.S. prohibits the import of illegal toothfish, and importers are required to hold a permit, as well as a pre-approval certificate for each shipment of toothfish brought into the country. Some illegal fishing activity still occurs in the high seas (unregulated) areas of the Indian Ocean, and these products may be sold in markets outside the U.S.
Bycatch varies widely in toothfish fisheries, but may include some threatened and endangered species of seabirds and sharks. However, bycatch has been steadily decreasing due to a number of initiatives and is now at its lowest recorded level. In addition, all catch data - including fishing location, species caught etc. - are recorded and reported by independent, scientific observers.
Most toothfish is caught by bottom longline, which is known to have some impacts on seafloor habitats. As toothfish range across a wide area of the Southern Ocean, not all of these habitats are yet known, nor what wildlife might live there. To reduce impact, the well-managed fisheries have implemented measures such as; catch limits, reduced fleet size, modifications to fishing gear that reduces contact with the bottom, and avoid fishing in marine protected areas.
Toothfish are carnivores, and in turn are eaten by seabirds, pinnipeds and cetaceans. This dual predator/prey role makes them a species of special importance in the ecosystem. In some regions, there is a large body of research underway to assess how many toothfish can safely be removed for human consumption without disturbing the balance of nature.
When buying Chilean seabass look for options from Heard and McDonald, the Falklands or Macquarie as a "Best Choice," and Ross Sea, South Georgia or Kerguelen as "Good Alternatives." Or look for the blue eco-label of the MSC for certified sustainable products.