Meet the fishers
Meet the South Georgia Patagonian toothfish fishers
South Georgia Patagonian toothfish is wild-caught at depths down to 5,000 feet by this small fishery, located in the Antarctic region around the island of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean.
One of the most remote regions on the planet, blue glaciers and crystalline waterways characterize this polar region off southern South America. On the South Sandwich Islands, harsh weather conditions and active volcanism make it difficult to approach by ship. In South Georgia, where 161 glaciers coat more than half of the rugged island, steep mountains meet the sea in a series of high cliffs broken by large bays and inlets that make picture-perfect scenery.
Toothfish are a long-lived species and can be sourced from the southern oceans pan-globally. Overall,the global fishery has experienced overfishing, seabird by-catch, and illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. MSC encourages buyers to seek out only MSC-certified toothfish.
Currently, only the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands fishery in the southern Atlantic is MSC-certified, and it catches less than 5,000 metric tonnes annually, which is about 5 percent of the total global toothfish catch each year. It is an excellent example of a fishery making changes in fishing practices to become sustainable and reduce impact on the ocean environment.
BirdLife International, a global partnership of conservation organizations, described this Patagonian toothfish fishery as “one of the best managed in the world…the seabird by-catch mitigation techniques used in this fishery make it the premier example of best practice to which other comparable longline fisheries around the world should aspire." The fishery has taken measures to reduce seabird bycatch of albatross from several thousand annually to single figures.
Stores and restaurants that once removed all Patagonia toothfish from their shelves and menus have reintroduced MSC-certified toothfish products, as they are now confident it is not contributing to the problems of overfishing of the species. The fishery also addressed other issues of concern as part of attaining MSC certification; stringent requirements include 100% observer coverage with an independent observer aboard every vessel on every trip to record catch data.
Patagonian toothfish is sold in the United States as Chilean sea bass, in Japan as mero, in Mauritius as butterfish and in Chile as bacalao. One of the richest and most sought-after fish on the market, toothfish is a moist and tender white fish that flakes easily.
For more information, visit the South Georgia Island Government website.