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South Georgia toothfish quotas down this year.

Wednesday, December 1st 2004 - 20:00 UTC
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Reductions in the levels of allowable catch for toothfish, together with alterations to the way the South Georgia Fishery is zoned, will lead to fewer vessels being licensed this year said South Georgia Director of Fisheries and Deputy Commissioner, Miss Harriet Hall, in Stanley on Tuesday.

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 said by Miss Hall to be "part of a continuing process of stock assessment" and the result of much discussion, most of a very scientific nature. As Director of Fisheries for South Georgia, which falls within CCAMLR's management area, Miss Hall attended this years meetings, which concluded in Hobart on the 5th of 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 informed Mercopress that bidding for a licence to fish for tooth fish by long-lining is an annual competitive process, which has yet to begin for the coming season. 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.

For ice fish, which is caught by trawling, the TAC for the season is 3774 tonnes. Strict conditions also apply to licensing for this species in the season which starts today, the first of December and ends on the 15th of January. In an attempt to limit incidental sea bird mortality, for example, the rule is that a vessel's licence will be withdrawn once twenty birds have been killed. Once again a vessel's past record of compliance with the regulations will be taken into account before a licence is offered.

Within CCAMLAR sub-area 48.3, which corresponds to the South Georgia Fishery, the annual TAC for krill has been fixed at 1,000,000 tonnes.

CCAMLR came into force in 1982, as part of the Antarctic Treaty System and is responsible, among other things, for fisheries management in the Southern Ocean, which surrounds the continent of Antarctica and is delimited by the Antarctic Convergence (or Polar Front). This is formed where cold Antarctic waters meet warmer waters to the north.

The twenty three member nations of CCAMLR include: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, European Community, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA and Uruguay.

CCAMLAR takes what Miss Hall described as a holistic and precautionary view of the whole Southern Ocean ecosystem in determining the Total Acceptable Catch or TAC for each species and type for any particular year. The annual meeting of the Commission is preceded by the meeting of CCAMLAR's Scientific Committee, which in turn receives reports from the Working Group on Fish Stock Assessment; a process which takes up to three weeks.

A detailed understanding of the South Georgia Fishery can be gained from a surprisingly readable book, entitled Fishing South written by David J Agnew. This book, which will soon be available in the Falkland Islands, priced £12.99, is published by the Penna Press on behalf of the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

John Fowler (MP) Stanley

Categories: Falkland Islands.

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