The Falkland Island Toothfish fishery is one of the three toothfish fisheries around the world awarded a category of “Best Choice” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program. Seafood Watch is the most well-known and trusted source in North America for consumers and businesses seeking information about environmentally responsible seafood choices.
Assessment of the suite of toothfish fisheries took almost a year said Dr. Tom Pickerell, Senior Science Manager at Seafood Watch. In order to be confident in our results, we have a rigorous process that ensures that all the relevant data are analysed and our findings peer reviewed. While some may consider a recommendation to buy toothfish somewhat controversial, we are confident in our analyses and the industry has demonstrated that it is possible to harvest this species in a responsible manner.
As a result of this investigation, 60% of the global allowable catches is now rated by Seafood Watch as either Best Choice or Good Alternative. Of the 10 toothfish fisheries around the world, 17.7% have been rated as Best Choice, 43.4% as Good Alternative (including the South Georgia and Ross Sea Fisheries), 21.4% are rated as Avoid and 17.5% is not rated (principally the Argentine Fishery). The Falklands, Heard & McDonald Islands and Macquarie Island (Australia EEZ) were all determined to be the best choice for consumers.
Until the recent assessment by Seafood Watch was undertaken, the website classed all toothfish as To Avoid. However, a persistent campaign led by COLTO, the Coalition of Legal Toothfish Operators, to persuade the MBA to address the real gains made in eliminating unlicensed, unregulated and unreported (IUU) toothfish catches around the world was successful in highlighting the environmental credentials of toothfish fisheries in the 21st century.
Martin Exel, Chair of COLTO, said that ...Collaboration between industry and conservation, working with scientists and managers to address problems, has produced extraordinary results. It's one of the most exciting outcomes in global fisheries – a model of how well fisheries management actions can work.
A major collaborative action to eliminate illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) toothfish fishing, to devise new methods to reduce seabird by-catch, and to ensure sustainable management of toothfish, was started 15 years ago by industry, conservation groups, and national governments. There has been a 95% decline in IUU catches of Patagonian toothfish since then. In Chile the use of whale predation measures called 'cachaloteras' on longline fishing vessels reduced the by-catch of albatross to zero. In New Zealand, development of integrated weighting line virtually eliminated seabird by-catch for auto-line toothfish vessels, globally.
George Betts, manager of Consolidated Fisheries Ltd - which is sponsoring the current assessment of the Falkland Islands Toothfish fishery under MSC Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing - said:
This is an excellent result for the local toothfish fishery: not just because it is of commercial benefit to the company but it also reflects the high standards of fisheries management as a whole in the Islands. It is evidence that the Falklands Islands are at the forefront of responsible management of its natural resources. (Source: Colto/CFL)