A very extensive and productive continental shelf, which supports a great biodiversity and high biomass of fish, squid and crustaceans, characterizes the Argentine Sea and allows annual levels of responsible extraction of one million tons (considering the catches of the Argentine fleet, which operates around the Malvinas Islands and in the area close to the EEZ of our country). Patagonian toothfish is a moderately abundant species, difficult to reach by fishing fleets, but a very valuable resource due to its value on international markets. The annual maximum allowable catch established by rigorous scientific studies, has remained at around 3,700 t during recent years. The Argentine fishery targeted to this species began in the 1990s. Until then, it was only caught as a bycatch in the austral trawling fisheries. At present, the fishery is composed of six freezer vessels that use two different types of gear: bottom trawl net and bottom longline.
The Argentine fishery administration is based on demanding regulations including internationally accepted instruments, agreements and good fishing practices to ensure the sustainability of resources and fisheries. The Patagonian toothfish fishery is managed through the Individual Transferable Quotas System (ITQ). In addition to the strict catch limit, main conservation measures include the existence of a Juvenile Protection Area for the species; the mandatory presence of scientific observers and fisheries inspectors onboard of vessels carrying out targeted fishing; limitation of the juvenile percentage in the catch and the minimum depth to carry out fishing operations; and a winter closure to protect adults during the reproductive season. Although the fishery is not under the purview of CCAMLR, it adheres to the Catch Documentation System (CDS), as well as to the monitoring and reporting of vessel activity at sea.
The Commission for the Management of Toothfish Fisheries
Another instrument that has been extremely useful for the governance and management of the fishery is the existence of a Commission for the monitoring of the Patagonian toothfish fishing activity, which merges the fishing sector with administrators and the scientific community. Since 2002, this Commission has been meeting at least twice a year to analyze the development of the fisheries, to study different biological, economic and social issues involved, and to recommend the implementation of agreed measures to the Federal Fishing Council, the governing body of fisheries policy in Argentina.
The Individual Transferable Quotas
The Patagonian toothfish fishery in Argentina began to be managed through the system of individual transferable quotas (ITQ’s) in 2010. Quotas are distributed annually according to the percentage corresponding to each company/vessel taking into account the Annual Catch Limit (TAC) established by the Federal Fishing Council, which is based on scientific recommendations arising from the application of evaluation models and risk analysis for the estimation of the Biologically Acceptable Catch.
This is the most important value of our industry. Without sustainability, there is no sustainable development and it is not possible to endure as a productive activity. Therefore, we have recently embarked on the path towards the fisheries sustainability certification granted by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The pre-assessment of the fisheries has already been carried out by an accredited entity, such as CEDEPESCA, and an fishery improvement project (FIP) has been formally initiated in order to achieve the MSC standard, which is one of the most demanding and accepted standards worldwide. The development of this process can be followed in FISHERY PROGRESS.
Comprehensive Care of the Ecosystem
Our commitment to sustainability does not end just with Patagonian toothfish as a target species. It is much wider and more broad-based, conceiving the ecosystem as a whole. For this reason, we promote the use of mitigation mechanisms for the mortality of sharks, birds and marine mammals, in accordance with the guidelines established by National Action Plans (PAN) of Argentina. We also promote responsible fishing actions for the care of ETP species (listed by the IUCN as threatened, endangered and/or protected). The marine environment shelters the life of all organisms that are part of different ecosystems. Relationships between them enable the harmonious and balanced life that is required to ensure sustainability. We are aware that sustainable development can only be achieved by preserving this fragile balance.
We also comply with international requirements for the protection of marine megafauna, such as those of the Marine Mammal Protection Act –USA / Dep. Commerce-NOAA, which imposes restrictions on imports of fisheries products caught in commercial fisheries which cause accidental death or serious injury of marine mammals that are superior to those established by the norms and standards of the United States of America.
Our fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing
As part of our commitment in the fight against IUU fishing, we adhere to and promote the application of the National Action Plan to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing implemented by our country since 2008. Our companies adhere to the Catch Documentation System (CDS), aimed at monitoring the capture and commercialization of Patagonian toothfish worldwide. The Argentine Fishery Administration permanently monitor our vessels through a satellite tracking system (VMS).
Our conviction for responsible and legal fishing has led most of companies participating in the Argentine Patagonian toothfish fishery to join COLTO (Coalition of Legal Toothfish Operators). Legal members of the industry established this Coalition in 2003 to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing of Patagonian toothfish, and to ensure the long-term sustainability of this species and the rich and fragile biodiversity of the Southern Ocean. Today, COLTO brings together companies that legally capture 85% of the total world catch of Patagonian toothfish.