(Ross Sea, Longline)
Longline-caught Chilean seabass from the Ross Sea are a "Good Alternative" because although their populations have indicated effective management for several years, the fishing method affects other species whose status is largely unknown in ecosystems not thoroughly studied.
The Ross Sea toothfish fishery is certified as sustainable to the standard of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) .
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. Antarctic toothfish, the cold water relative, are found in the Ross Sea and considered abundant based on careful review of data from landings and recent independent research into population health. Despite some unknowns of its population structure and their unique habitat, any new information on its life history is incorporated when setting catch limits. Many vessels from a number of nations comprise this fishery and thereby vary in enforcement approaches, but measures include observers and monitoring systems stationed on every vessel, satellite surveillance, vessel inspections, and routine reviews of compliance. The significant ice season in the Ross Sea curtails the level of fishing activity possible there.
Most toothfish are caught by bottom longline, which is known to have some impact on seafloor habitats. To reduce this the Ross Sea fishery has designated many areas closed to fishing. Work is ongoing to identify and protect vulnerable marine ecosystems.
Bycatch varies widely in toothfish fisheries that use bottom longline. In the Ross Sea, threatened or vulnerable species such as skates, rays, and large numbers of grenadiers are caught, with some catch limits imposed. In addition, independent, scientific observers report all catch data.