Unnatural Selection of Antarctic Toothfish in the Ross Sea, Antarctica

  • David G. Ainley
  • Cassandra M. Brooks
  • Joseph T. Eastman
  • Melanie Massaro


The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Powers formed the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in 1982, a Commission charged with the wise management of the biotic resources of the Antarctic, south of 60oS. As a fishery treaty, CCAMLR has been ahead of its time, despite operating on the basis of consensus – a modus operandi generally not fairing well in the management of fisheries elsewhere (Longhurst 2010). Besides regulating fish catches, CCAMLR has accomplished the establishment of several legislations towards the protection of Antarctic marine living resources, such as the ban of gill nets and bottom trawling, and the protection of shallow-water benthic communities. On the other hand, current Antarctic fisheries management largely depends on mathematical models to determine catch rates, but these models frequently fail in the absence of adequate and accurate life history data and ecological information for the target species. In 1996, CCAMLR opened an “exploratory” fishery for Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) in the Ross Sea with the aim of reducing the spawning biomass to 50% in the next 35 years. This fishery is managed in the absence of crucial data on life history and ecology. Here we provide a summary of what is currently known about Antarctic toothfish life history and its ecological role in the Ross Sea. Further, by drawing parallels to other fisheries targeting long-lived, deep-sea fish, we review problems with the current management of this fishery and provide suggestions for better management. We urge that until more is known about basic life history of Antarctic toothfish and its ecological role in the Ross Sea, managers would be wise to apply a more precautionary fishery management approach.


Southern Ocean Sperm Whale Total Allowable Catch Antarctic Polar Front Orange Roughy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We wish to thank Carie Hoover, Richard Beamish, Enrique Marschoff, Esteban Barrera-Oro, and Falk Huettmann for comments on this paper. This paper was prepared, in part, under a grant from Lenfest Ocean Ecology Program. M.M. is partly supported through a New Zealand Antarctic Science grant (K122) by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and Antarctica New Zealand.


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Copyright information

© Springer 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • David G. Ainley
    • 1
  • Cassandra M. Brooks
    • 2
  • Joseph T. Eastman
    • 3
  • Melanie Massaro
    • 4
  1. 1.H.T. Harvey and AssociatesLos GatosUSA
  2. 2.Moss Landing Marine LaboratoriesMoss LandingUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biomedical ScienceOhio UniversityAthensUSA
  4. 4.Gateway Antarctica and School of Biological SciencesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand

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