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Marine Stewardship Council Deems Toothfish "Sustainable" Despite Warnings From Marine Scientists

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hatrack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-05-11 12:58 PM
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Marine Stewardship Council Deems Toothfish "Sustainable" Despite Warnings From Marine Scientists
In November of 2010, the Antarctic toothfish fishery was deemed sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. This certification goes against the advice of many marine scientists who claim that insufficient research has been done to determine the full impact of commercial fishing on this enigmatic species. Topping out at 300lbs, the Antarctic toothfish is one of the biggest fish in the Southern Ocean. With its ability to produce an antifreeze glycoprotein and a heart that beats just once every six seconds, it is superbly adapted to its Southern Ocean habitat. Unfortunately, it's also delicious.

Referred to as "white gold" by fishermen, Antarctic toothfish fetches upwards of $35 per pound on the U.S. market where it's often called "Chilean sea bass", even though it's not at all related to sea bass and lives nowhere near Chile. However, even its exorbitant price can't make up for the costs incurred by fishing vessels when they venture out into the Ross Sea, the habitat of the Antarctic toothfish and one of the few marine safehouses remaining in the world today. Unpredictable sea ice, turbulent waters, and the vast distance from port make the Antarctic toothfishery financially unviable. Yet there is a safety net for the Antarctic toothfish fishery, allowing them to supply "Chilean sea bass" for people wealthy enough to afford it and employ fishermen at "slave wages" in extremely hazardous working conditions - a sustainability certificate from the Marine Stewardship Council which will let the fishery hike up prices.

"Management of this fishery follows precautionary and ecosystem-based principles. Strict harvest control rules, annual stock assessments, mandatory observation of fishing activities and controls on gear to avoid by-catch of seabirds are just some of the practical outcomes of that approach, recognized and rewarded by this certification." said Chris Ninnes, MSC Deputy Chief Executive, in a November statement congratulating the Antarctic toothfish fishery on its certification.

EDIT

"We actually know very little about the ecology of Antarctic toothfish, despite MSCs reasoning otherwise." David Ainley, a marine ecologist who conducts research in the Antarctic, told mongbay.com. "Because of the challenges of conducting science in the ice-choked Ross Sea, we know only vaguely where or when these fish spawn (sometime in winter, and maybe around the sea mounts well north of the Ross Sea), have no idea about natural mortality, a cursory idea of what predators eat them at the early stages, etc. We do know, though, that larger fish are important to sperm whales, killer whales and seals." "The lack of insight about what is really going on is the most true for the Antarctic toothfish, which lives in a really harsh area making fishery science difficult at best, and in which all model inputs are educated guesses, i.e. drawn from inputs for fish species elsewhere in other systems. As the head of fishery science for NZs NIWA (John McCoy) recently said in a public speech, fishery science is based on guesses and more and more these days more fish species become fished with fewer and fewer data."

EDIT

http://news.mongabay.com/2011/1223-morgan_msc_toothfish...
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Nihil Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-06-11 03:24 AM
Response to Original message
1. Add it to the "Nobody realised until it was too late" list.
> Topping out at 300lbs, the Antarctic toothfish is one of the biggest fish
> in the Southern Ocean. With its ability to produce an antifreeze glycoprotein
> and a heart that beats just once every six seconds, it is superbly adapted
> to its Southern Ocean habitat.

Superbly adapted ... until the arrival of the industrial biomass harvesters.


From Wikipedia:
>> They reach about 60cm after 5 years, 1m after 10 years, and reach about
>> 1.5m at about 20 years.
>> ...
>> there are few fish older than about 30 years caught in the fishery.
>> Indications from this current research are that fish mature at about age 10.

And the odds that enough 1 metre long profitable fish will survive a fishing fleet
long enough to breed is ...?


> As the head of fishery science for NZs NIWA (John McCoy) recently said in
> a public speech, fishery science is based on guesses and more and more these
> days more fish species become fished with fewer and fewer data."

That's because the decisions are being made by economists, politicians and
business interests.

Since when have those folks needed (or even used) accurate data if there's a
danger that it might conflict with short-term profit?

:grr:
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eppur_se_muova Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-07-11 03:53 PM
Response to Original message
2. Dang, too late to rec, but here's a book rec ...
http://www.powells.com/biblio/1594861102

Hooked: Pirates, Poaching, and the Perfect Fish
by G Bruce Knecht

Tells the story of the longest maritime chase in history, and fills in the background on why large-scale commercial poaching is so hard to contain. The Patagonian toothfish has already been overfished to the point of "commercial extinction", i.e. not enough left for fishing vessels to turn a profit. At the time this book was written, fishing vessels had turned to the Antarctic toothfish as a replacement, with the obvious consequences clearly foreshadowed.
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