(Chile, Crozet Islands, Prince Edward and Marion Islands, Longline)
Chilean Seabass from Crozet Islands, Prince Edward and Marion Islands, and Chile are on the "Avoid" list because they have poorly managed their toothfish, and sufficient knowledge of the fishery's effects on bycatch is absent.
Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish are commonly sold and marketed as Chilean Seabass, despite being two separate species. Recommendations differ depending on the region where the Chilean seabass originates, so it's important to ask. Seafood Watch® recommendations cover approximately 78% of the reported global toothfish catch. Also look for the blue eco-label of the MSC for certified sustainable products.
Toothfish dwell in deeper waters and play an important role in the Southern Ocean ecosystem as both prey and predator. Extensive research is ongoing in some regions to assess how many can be safely removed without disturbing the balance of nature. Some toothfish populations are more healthy and abundant than others. The existence of toothfish fisheries is controversial for a variety of reasons. These include the lack of knowledge of some aspects of the species' life history, ecology, and population dynamics, as well as its vulnerability to overexploitation, particularly from its prior history with illegal fishing. But thanks to scrutiny of fishing activities, new data, and numerous enforcement measures in recent years, this activity has dramatically decreased. The U.S. prohibits the import of illegally caught toothfish, and importers must hold a permit, as well as a pre-approval certificate for each U.S. bound shipment of toothfish. Some illegal fishing activity still occurs in the high seas (unregulated), and these products may be sold in markets outside the U.S. It's still unclear how these illegal takes of toothfish may affect the well-managed fisheries. In the Prince Edward and Marion Islands, the future trajectory of the fishery is uncertain as no acknowledged stock assessment exists to derive how many fish can be caught sustainably. Toothfish populations are at a fraction of their historical numbers, which have a history of illegal fishing. The presence of legal boats is expected to eliminate that. These fisheries use modified longline gear that lessens impacts on the bottom, though still affects corals. Work to establish more marine reserves in these islands is ongoing.
The Crozet Islands, too, lack any stock assessment and effective management of bycatch to ensure species are not fished beyond a sustainable level. The incidental catch can be high, capturing species such as rays, grenadiers, and petrels which all have concerns about their vulnerability. This fishery's expansion into deep water may have unknown ecosystem impacts.
Chile's toothfish populations are overfished and at high risk of depletion. Management has not developed a rebuilding strategy. Chile lacks bycatch limits and population data despite hooking vulnerable species like rays. In addition, independent, scientific observers are not present on artisanal* boats. Chile has, however, reported their elimination of seabird bycatch.