17 Sep 2009: South Georgia toothfish recertified with flying colours

Following its five-yearly Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) re-assessment, the South Georgia Patagonian toothfish longline fishery has been re-certified as a sustainable and well-managed fishery. Marketed in the United States as Chilean sea-bass, it is the only Chilean sea-bass available from a certified sustainable source.

The fishery scored particularly highly on its re-assessment with scores over 90 (out of 100) for each of the three MSC principles. It also attracted no conditions for certification having successfully met all of the previous conditions relating to its initial certification in 2004. 

Despite this success, the Government of South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) has already pledged a continued commitment to further improving the fishery. This will include an extensive programme of scientific work in order to support management of the fishery over the next 5 years.

Foreign Office Minister, Chris Bryant said: “It’s great news that the South Georgia toothfish fishery has done so well – a tribute to all those involved and South Georgia’s commitment to the sustainable management of its fisheries. It’s also a fine demonstration of how governments, the fishing industry and scientists, working together, can achieve excellent results for both the environment and the economy.”

Dr Martin Collins, Director of Fisheries at the GSGSSI says: “We are delighted that the toothfish fishery has been recertified and the excellent scores attained reflect the efforts made by the GSGSSI, its scientific consultants and fishing industry to ensure the fishery is managed sustainably. South Georgia is a unique environment and the GSGSSI will continue in its efforts to improve all aspects of the fishery.”

What MSC says

Rupert Howes, Chief Executive of the MSC adds: “I congratulate the South Georgia toothfish fishery on their re-certification. It is tremendously encouraging  to see the higher scores awarded during the re-assessment of this important fishery indicating continued improvement in performance from the initial assessment and with commitments by the GSGSSI to go further. Whilst concerns remain about the legality of some sources of toothfish reaching global seafood markets, major buyers and consumers can be assured that MSC certified toothfish from South Georgia is both legal and sustainable. We hope that as the market demand for certified sustainable supplies of this species grows, other toothfish fisheries will be encouraged to enter into the third party scientific assessment process and where necessary, to make the improvements needed to reach MSC’s standard for environmentally responsible and sustainable fishing. That is how the MSC programme is designed to work.”

About South Georgia

South Georgia is a mountainous, ice-covered island, situated 600 miles SE of the Falkland Islands and south of the Antarctic Polar Front. The island is home to an amazing array of wildlife including elephant seals, Antarctic fur seals, albatross (wandering, black-browed, grey-headed and sooty) and penguins (macaroni, king, chinstrap and gentoo).

The South Georgia fishery currently takes around 3500 tonnes of toothfish per year and in the 2009 season involved 11 vessels from seven flag states (UK, Spain, Korea, NZ, Chile, Uruguay & South Africa).  All fishing is highly regulated in South Georgia waters, including a total ban on bottom trawling.

South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands are a UK overseas territory. The Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) manage the fishery, with scientific support and advice provided by the Marine Resources Assessment Group (MRAG) and British Antarctic Survey (BAS).