A spokesman for the Government of the South Atlantic island of South Georgia, which has its seat in Government House in the Falklands, yesterday made the following announcement regarding the annual award of licences to fish for toothfish in the Island's waters:
"This year the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI) has decided to award eight licences to fish for toothfish in its waters. The reduction in the number of licenses issued by comparison with 2004 follows a significant reduction in the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) awarded by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). Four licences have been awarded to UK and UK Overseas Territories registered vessels and four to other nationalities. The nationalities of the latter vessels are Chilean (2), Spanish (1) and South African (1).
The GSGSSI is committed to managing a long term sustainable fishery both in terms of stock size and incidental mortality of seabirds and other fish species. The fishery has Marine Stewardship Council certification."
Sources connected to Falkland Islands fishing companies who have an interest in the South Georgia fishery, along with their overseas joint-venture partners, usually Spanish, indicate general satisfaction that the licences applied for have been granted, including one for Protogat, owned by Eurofishing, which is the first Falklands-registered jigger and is also rigged for long-lining.
Last December South Georgia Director of Fisheries and Deputy Commissioner Ms Harriet Hall anticipated that reductions in the levels of allowable catch for toothfish, together with alterations to the way the South Georgia Fishery is zoned, would lead to fewer vessels being licensed this year.
When the new season for toothfish begins on May 1st the Total Acceptable Catch (TAC) for Area 48.3 will be 3,050 tonnes, as opposed to the 4,420 tonnes allowed last year. Furthermore the area will be divided into three management zones: A, B &C. Fishing for toothfish will be prohibited in Zone A and limited in Zones B&C to 915 tonnes and 2135 tonnes, respectively.
These new arrangements, which were agreed at the annual meeting of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) were to be "part of a continuing process of stock assessment" and the result of much discussion, most of a very scientific nature, said Ms. Hall on her return to the Falklands from CCAMLR's annual meeting in Hobart last November.
Last year there were thirteen vessels licensed to fish for tooth fish in the South Georgia Fishery, which paid around sixty thousand pounds per hundred tonnes of TAC allocated for the privilege.
Miss Hall last December in an interview with Mercopress said that bidding for a licence to fish for tooth fish by long-lining is a very competitive process with several requirements. To participate, a vessel must first be licensed to fish by a participating state of CCAMLAR and thereafter it must conform to a number of stringent requirements relating to its management system, catch reporting and the avoidance of incidental seabird mortality. Past performance and a willingness to participate in CCAMLR's research projects will be taken into account along with other factors, including, on occasion, foreign relations advice from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
John Fowler (MP) Stanley