Editor’s Note: Neptune 911 reports often have to do with illegal fishing. The following report of illegal fishing for Antarctic toothfish by an earlier-cited Nigerian vessel for illegal fishing was published last December.
Sea Shepherd has called on the Australian government to intervene in a tense standoff with suspected illegal fishers in a remote part of the Southern Ocean.
The ocean conservation group’s ship Bob Barker has intercepted the Nigerian-flagged fishing vessel Thunder just outside Australian-claimed Antarctic waters, far to the south-west of the mainland. Sea Shepherd claims the Thunder was illegally fishing at the time of the interception and had been pulling toothfish out of Australian waters.
The Antarctic toothfish is a highly prized species, known as “white gold” and sought after by high-end restaurants. While there are licensed fishing operators in Antarctic waters, it’s thought that there are six illegal fishing vessels currently targeting toothfish.
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources lists the Thunder as an unlicensed fishing operator, while Interpol has put out a “purple notice” on the Thunder.
Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) AKA Chilean Bass, and Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) are targeted by licensed fisheries in the Southern Ocean, using mainly bottom-set longlines in depths of 1 200–1 800 m. These species may also be caught by trawl and pot. Both species of toothfish are sought after in restaurants and high-end markets worldwide. The highly prized fish, sometimes referred to as ‘white gold’, have also caught the attention of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing vessels.
There are 13 licensed fisheries currently targeting toothfish in Areas 48, 58 and 88, including seven exploratory fisheries. These fisheries are reviewed annually by CCAMLR’s Working Group on Fish Stock Assessment (WG-FSA) and the Scientific Committee. The Commission’s agreed limits for the current fishing season are defined in the Conservation measures.