Legal toothfish fishing occurs in a number of regions around the Antarctic continent, in the high seas waters of the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic, as well as in several Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) in the Southern Oceans. An EEZ is a declared region of water, out to 200 nautical miles from the coastline of a country, which that country is responsible for in terms of resource management and control over fishing and other activities.
COLTO members operate in many of these regions, including waters surrounding territories of Argentina, Australia, Chile, Falkland Islands, France, South Africa and the UK. Unfortunately, in the past there were some unscrupulous operators who also chose to operate illegally in those regions, and COLTO members worked and continue to work together with industry, governments and conservation groups to keep these illegal activities at bay.
COLTO is proud that most of the Southern Ocean toothfish fisheries are well managed (4 of which are now MSC certified, with 2 more undergoing full assessment), and that effective surveillance and enforcement exists to stop illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing activity. Since 2005, there has been virtually zero IUU fishing in any of the main EEZ regions, or the Ross Sea (which is the only substantive CCAMLR high seas fishing region).
However, it is recognised that, left unchecked, the remnant IUU activity that is still present in some of the high seas areas of the southern Indian Ocean has potential to spill over into the existing well managed and sustainable fisheries. Since 2006, the remaining IUU activity has shifted from demersal longlines to demersal gillnets and also moved from Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) to Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni). It has been estimated that up to 6% of the total catch of toothfish annually is taken by IUU fishers in the high seas areas.
Governments, industry, conservationists and international management groups have been working hard to combat IUU fishing, and COLTO has contributed to the successful reduction in IUU fishing over recent years, with a recent study concluding COLTO was the second most influential body (behind CCAMLR) in substanitally reducing IUU fishing in the Southern Ocean. With our international industry linkages, we have a unique ability to provide assistance, support and surveillance information to Governments, managers and conservation groups to eliminate IUU fishing for toothfish.
In the past, COLTO has worked with conservation groups to publicise and identify IUU operators, their companies, boats, individuals and trading names. This has helped the public be more aware of the need to buy legally caught toothfish products, and demonstrated the actions being taken by legal industry members to ensure the toothfish that they are eating is sourced from sustainable, well managed fisheries in the southern oceans.
In total, COLTO members represent legal catches of more than 85% of the total global legal production of toothfish, which equates to almost 20,000 tonnes (green weight) per annum.