Australia’s Heard Island Toothfish Fishery re-certified by MSC

The Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) Patagonian toothfish fishery has received recertification to the MSC standard for sustainable fishing. Originally certified in 2012, the fishery was once riddled with illegal and unregulated fishing for the valuable species, found across the southern ocean. 

But due to robust and collaborative management, there has not been illegal fishing in the region since 2006, according to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), the international science-based body with 25 member nations tasked with managing Antarctic resources.

The HIMI fishery is managed by the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) in accordance with measures set by CCAMLR.  In addition, both operators, Austral Fisheries and Australian Longline, are active members of COLTO, the Coalition of Legal Toothfish Operators. 

“We’re incredibly proud of this fishery, toothfish was once considered an unsustainable choice and today more than half the global catch is MSC certified and continues to meet our scientific standard for sustainability,” said Patrick Caleo, MSC Regional Director Asia Pacific.   

In the late 1990s and early 2000s illicit fishing of toothfish was threatening the population of stocks and undermining the livelihoods of the fishing operators. Today, 60% of the global catch of toothfish is MSC certified as sustainable.

“Congratulations to the HIMI Toothfish fishery for achieving recertification and for demonstrating true leadership in the successful management of this remote fishery. Consumers in Australia and abroad can trust that toothfish labelled with the MSC blue tick continue to be independently certified as sustainable,” says Patrick Caleo, MSC Regional Director Asia Pacific.
Austral Fisheries and Australian Longline, the two operators in the area, are active members of COLTO, the Coalition of Legal Toothfish Operators.

“We are thrilled with our recertification for HIMI toothfish,” said David Carter, CEO of Austral Fisheries. “At Austral, we have a strong commitment to sustainability. From our MSC certifications through to our Carbon Neutral Program, we take pride in our sustainable business practices to ensure we can enjoy seafood for generations to come,” said David Carter, CEO of Austral Fisheries.

Fisheries that meet the MSC fishing standard are certified for five years, with annual surveillance audits. Since the original 2012 certification, the fishery has successfully closed out all outstanding conditions, demonstrating that it meets best practice for sustainable and well managed fisheries. 

Originally certified in 2012, the fishery was reassessed by third-party auditor SCS Global Services. “Toothfish fisheries were once susceptible to illegal and unreported fishing,” said Dr. Sabine Daume, Australian Regional Representative for SCS Global Services. “With the establishment of COLTO, management by CCAMLR, and certification to the MSC Fisheries and MSC Chain of Custody standards, consumers can trust that toothfish from this fishery are traceable and sustainable from ocean to plate.”

“We’re proud of the hard work we’ve done,” said Malcolm McNeill, Managing Director of Australian Longline. “Through collaborative management on and off the water between industry, AFMA and the Australian Border Force, a species that was once deemed to be unsustainable by some, can reverse its course. In addition to achieving MSC certification for the second time, HIMI Toothfish is also rated green and a Best Choice by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program.”

Fisheries are assessed by third-party auditors against the MSC Standard, which covers three core principles: fishery stock health, impact on marine environment and management of the fishery. More than 615 improvements to fishing practices and environmental management have been delivered by MSC certified fisheries since 2000.