22nd December 2011: Draft Report for HIMI toothfish

The Australian Heard Island & McDonald Islands Patagonian toothfish fishery is now approaching the final stages of Marine Stewardship Council review.

The MSC draft report was compiled by Scientific Certification Systems and is now available on the MSC website.  The public comment period ends January 16th 2012.

If successful, HIMI will be the third toothfish fishery to achieve the gold standard of the MSC, determining it a sustainable and well managed fishery, following the South Georgia and Ross Sea toothfish fisheries.

16th November 2011: Galician shipowner condemned for fraud

The Provincial Court of Las Palmas in Gran Canaria condemned the shipowner Manuel Antonio Vidal Pego, from Ribeira (A Coruña) for having committed fraud.

The sentence states that the fraudster will be in prison for a year and eight months and will have to pay a daily fine of EUR 15 for eight months.

In addition, the company shall indemnify Coast Line firm with USD 2.74 million plus 10 per cent of that amount in lost profits.

“Manuel Antonio concealed that the ship Hammer, which captured the fish for sale, had been sighted by Australian authorities while fishing in the Convention Area for the conservation of living marine resources of Antarctica, from the body representative of Coast Line,” reads the sentence.

It adds: “Having the belief that the delivery of the goods agreed on with Coast Line would certainly be impossible, Vidal Pego concealed this information from Luis Suárez, a representative of Coast Line, during the trade transaction and, with the intention of obtaining an economic benefit, the shipowner decided to require the payment of the remaining price up to this last date,” the agency Europa Press reported.

Vidal Pego has already had a history of illegal fishing: in 2003 he was condemned internationally for developing that activity on board the vessel Viarsa.

In November 2009, PSdeG required Xunta de Galicia explanations for granting EUR 3.9 million as public aid to the company Biomega Nutrición, owned by the businessperson.

The money granted to the firm was designed to build a factory to produce omega-3 fatty acids from fish liver oil.

In April 2010, the conservation organization Oceana accused the Galician government of subsidising that company, which is “closely linked” to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, with EUR 4.02 million.

By Analia Murias

14 November 2011: New study on evironmental impacts of MSC programme published.

The Marine Stewardship Council has released the results of an independent study that shows quantifiable, progressive improvement of the environmental performance of MSC certified fisheries over time.  A summary of the report can be found here.

This is good news for COLTO members and their associated toothfish (also known as Chilean sea bass) fisheries, of which two are currently MSC certified, with several others currently undergoing the certification process.

4th November 2011: CCAMLR results “astounding”

Today saw the completion of the 30th annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart, Australia.  CCAMLR has 26 member nations and is part of the Antarctic Treaty System.   It is responsible for the balance of the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources and their rational use.

Members of the Coalition of Legal Toothfish Operators (COLTO) fish in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters, and participate in CCAMLR meetings as observers.  COLTO members provide significant amounts of research information and data to the Commission from their vessels, and are monitored by international scientific observers on all their fishing activities.    This year, COLTO members applauded the results from CCAMLR which show continued reduced Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) catches of toothfish, and which demonstrated the success of protection measures to avoid accidental catch of seabirds during fishing operations.

COLTO Chairman, Martin Exel, stated “Two achievements of CCAMLR in particular are astounding, and unparalleled in the context of international fisheries resources management. 

IUU catches of toothfish have been reduced by 95% from peak levels in 1996.   Within those figures, the IUU catches of Patagonian toothfish (aka Chilean Sea Bass)* have been reduced by 99.9% to virtually zero, throughout the CCAMLR region.  Coming from a position 10 years ago where IUU catches threatened populations of toothfish, I believe these results are incredible” he stated.   

“This massive reduction of IUU fishing has come about as a result of strong collaboration and cooperation between legal industry members, CCAMLR, and conservation groups”, Exel said. He pointed to the significant efforts taken over recent years on surveillance and enforcement by Australia, France, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom.   COLTO members also believe the presence of legal fishermen provides a deterrent for IUU operators. 

Results from the CCAMLR meeting show IUU fishing for Antarctic toothfish ‘..continued at a relatively low level..” in one high seas region, outside the control of CCAMLR and of national jurisdictions.   COLTO members are continuing to work with CCAMLR to eliminate this toothfish piracy.

Mr Exel also highlighted the success of CCAMLR for its conservation measures designed and implemented in conjunction with COLTO to protect seabirds, as well as congratulating legal operators for their ability to implement innovative measures to avoid incidental capture of seabirds. 

 It was reported by the Chairman of the Scientific Committee that levels of seabird deaths as a result of fishing in most of the Convention area were “..negligible..”.   It was also notable that the Executive Secretary of the Agreement for the Conservation of Albatross and Petrels** commended CCAMLR this year on its successful protection measures for seabird.

The single region where seabird interactions occurred in 2010/11, has seen a 98% reduction in interaction rates over the past decade through the use of CCAMLR mitigation measures implemented by COLTO members.     COLTO members are continuing to work with CCAMLR to ensure minimal impacts of fishing on seabird populations continue.


For more information, contact Martin Exel +61 413 595 532 (timezone GMT +11)

* There are two species of toothfish.     Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides – also known as Chilean Sea Bass) are generally found in and around sub-Antarctic and National waters of CCAMLR members.    Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) are found in Antarctic waters, generally south of 60 degrees South, off the Antarctic continent.  Data on IUU catch levels is sourced from the Scientific Committee of CCAMLR, as reported in SC-CAMLR XXIX, Table 6, Annex 8, with peak IUU catch of Patagonian toothfish at 32,673 tonnes in 1996/97.

** See www.acap.org

23 Sep 2011: COLTO member awarded Nuffield Scholarship

COLTO member from Austral Fisheries, Rhys Arangio, has been awarded a 2012 Nuffield Scholarship, sponsored by Woolworths and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation. 

Rhys is planning on looking into ways to mitigate marine mammal depredation in toothfishing operations.

To view the Media Release click on the link below:

2012 Nuffield Scholarship – FRDC and Woolworths Media Release

25 May 2011: COLTO Inc.

COLTO has successfully applied to the Commissioner for Fair Trading in Western Australia and has become an Incorporated Association.

The following are the Articles of Association for COLTO Inc.

Certificate of Incorporation

Articles of Association

10 May 2011: Third fishery for Austral Fisheries & Australian Longline enters full assessment against the MSC standard

The Macquarie Island toothfish fishery, operated by Austral Fisheries and Australian Longline, has entered full assessment for MSC certification.

This is the Australian operators’ third fishery to undergo MSC assessment with their HIMI mackerel icefish fishery successfully gaining MSC certification in 2006, and their HIMI toothfish fishery currently undergoing full assessment.

Independent certification body Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), will evaluate the Southern Ocean fishery against the MSC environmental standard for well-managed and sustainable fisheries.

The standard examines the sustainability of the fish stock, the environmental impact of the fishing activities and the management and governance systems that are in place.

The fishery comprises up to three vessels responsible for a total annual catch of more than 500 metric tonnes of toothfish using long-line and trawl methods. This catch is sold predominantly to the US, Japanese and Chinese markets.

Collaborative working enhances sustainability of Australian fisheries:

Austral Fisheries CEO, David Carter says: “Seeking MSC certification for the Macquarie Island toothfish fishery is part of our ongoing commitment to sustainable fishing practices, and our broader support for the MSC program as the world’s pre-eminent, scientifically rigorous and independent certification for wild caught fisheries.

Gaining MSC certification will recognise the collaborative efforts of industry, scientists, fishermen, conservation groups and policy makers to ensure sustainable management practices are in place for this fishery.

This collaborative working has led to strict management measures being placed on the fishery limiting the number of vessels allowed to operate, setting target and bycatch limits and imposing seasonal closures and stringent seabird mitigation requirements. They have also led to the establishment of one of the world’s largest Marine Protected Areas to further protect biodiversity in the area.”

Australian Longline’s CEO, Les Scott, says: “Australian Longline and Austral Fisheries have also been working together to focus on longlining methods and have agreed not to use trawl fishing while developing improved understandings of the toothfish stocks and their distribution on the Macquarie Ridge.

This joint operation has shown clear benefits, including improved stock assessment and biological understanding of toothfish by scientists at CSIRO and the Australian Antarctic Division, while at the same time avoiding any interactions with seabirds or other Macquarie Island wildlife. We are confident that these measures will bode well for the upcoming MSC assessment.”

MSC welcomes leadership from Australian fisheries:

Patrick Caleo, MSC Manager ANZ, says: “Austral Fisheries and Australian Longline should be congratulated for their ongoing commitment to sustainable fishing practices, and their efforts to safeguard seafood stocks for future generations.

The MSC welcomes the fishery into the assessment process. If successful in gaining certification, they will be able to use the MSC ecolabel on their products, and will be well placed to help meet the ever-growing demand for sustainably sourced seafood products worldwide.

Austral Fisheries and Australian Longline have certainly taken a leadership position in Australia regarding the issue of seafood sustainability, and in seeking independent certification of their fisheries. I hope that their continuing support of the MSC program will encourage other Australian fisheries interested in demonstrating their sustainability to come forward to seek MSC certification.”

28 April 2011: The toothfish bites back: The story behind the reduction of illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean.

References: Österblom, H., Sumaila, U.R., Toothfish crises, actor diversity and the emergence of compliance mechanisms in the Southern Ocean.Global Environ. Change (2011)

Previous research has shown how Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported fishing (IUU) has proven so resilient to international enforcement measures that it should be included in the definition of organised crime.

Illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean of the Patagonian toothfish has caused substantial concern and provoked action among the members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

In an article published in Global Environmental Change, centre researcher Henrik Österblom and Ussif Rashid Sumaila from the University of British Colombia Fisheries Centre have analysed the efforts of actors within CCAMLR over the last 15 years. They found that close collaboration with the fishing industry, conservation organisations and concerned citizens has moved CCAMLR from an organisation with a tarnished reputation to one of the most important regional organisations on reducing IUU fishing.

But things didn’t happen overnight.

Pressure from the outside

In 1995 and 1996, CCAMLR members expressed a growing concern over IUU fishing in the Southern Ocean.

Scientific estimates of IUU catches expressed a strong sense of urgency, and some reports even suggested that CCAMLR member states themselves were involved in IUU fishing.

In 1997, concerned representatives from NGOs and the fishing industry established ISOFISH (International Southern Ocean Longline Fisheries Information Clearing House) because of fears that governments would not be quick enough in curbing the illegal fishing.

ISOFISH raised media attention, used industry contacts to collect information on IUU operators and used strong language in their reports to get their message across. Their efforts paid off.

“Work by ISOFISH and various networks of non-state actors created public awareness, peer pressure within the fishing industry and political pressure that contributed to a substantial decrease in IUU fishing. Coordinated diplomatic pressure also forced countries to take actions against illegal fishing,” Österblom explains.

Be afraid

Despite the successful reduction of IUU during the late 1990s, the illegal activities peaked again in 2002, but this time the reaction from CCAMLR and other actors was swift and sharp. Austral Fisheries, the major Australian quota holder for Patagonian toothfish, spent more than US$ 2 million dollars between 2002 and 2003 on lobbying, surveillance, investigators and consultants.

COLTO, an industry coalition, joined forces with CCAMLR and produced “Wanted” posters in 18 languages offering up to US$100 000 in reward for information leading to the conviction of illegal fisheries.

In 2004, France and Australia signed a formal agreement on Southern Ocean surveillance and research, with the result that IUU catches has decreased substantially. IUU vessels are now unable to hide from the high-tech surveillance carried out by these countries.

“We now have an efficient strike capacity from anywhere and at any time — and the illegal operators know it. We operate freely across our respective zones and we can share the cost, which would have been enormous for one country alone,” says a senior manager at Australian Fisheries Management Authority.

Benefits from diversity

The success of CCAMLR to reduce IUU fishing within the convention area is not only because it was the natural platform for addressing IUU fishing in the Southern Ocean, but also because new actors was invited in to try and solve the issue.

Substantial international collaboration between new and diverse actors has created important trust. Long term face-to-face interaction has also been critical for successful outcomes.

“The success of CCAMLR clearly benefited from this diversity, and the commitment of actors to preserve the integrity of Antarctic ecosystems” Österblom concludes.

2 April 2011: Longline TAC set for Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery

The Hon. Tony Burke, Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has supported the introduction of demersal longlining in the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery (MITF).

The AFMA Commission sought Minister Burke’s support following the successful trial of the fishing method over four seasons from 2007 to 2010 which showed that Patagonian Toothfish could be effectively targeted by longlining.

In this trial it was demonstrated that the adoption of a range of mitigation strategies could avoid interactions with seabirds.  Independent observers reported no injuries to seabirds during the four year trial.

Following a recommendation from the Sub-Antarctic Resource Assessment Group and the Sub-Antarctic Fisheries Management Advisory Committee, the Commission has agreed to the total allowable catches (TACs) for the MITF for the 2011/12 season which starts on 15 April 2011.

The TACs for Patagonian Toothfish are 150 tonnes for the Aurora Trough sector and 360 tonnes for the Macquarie Ridge sector. A catch limit of 200 tonnes for all bycatch species as a whole, with a 50 tonnes limit on any one species, will also apply.