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Patagonian Toothfish

Patagonian Toothfish

Standard Names: Patagonian Toothfish, Dissostichus eleginoides




Patagonian Toothfish is caught predominantly by longline in deep waters in the remote Southern Ocean. Small amounts of fish are also caught by trawl, though increasingly this method is used only for scientific surveying. Patagonian Toothfish are thought to live up to 50 years and can grow as large as 2m and over 100kg, though commonly caught at around 4-7kg. Legal fishing is strictly controlled, but illegal fishing does occur in international waters. Hard work by Australian customs vessels has eradicated illegal fishing in Australian waters., with no illegal fishing recorded since 2005.

The Patagonian Toothfish fishery in Australia suffered a similar fate to global stocks when first discovered, being dramatically overfished by illegal operators. However, a collaborative effort between the fishing industry and government fishery agencies in recent have seen a dramatic turn around, with Patagonian Toothfish fisheries now considered well-managed.

The majority of the fish caught by Australian boats is sold overseas to Chinese and US markets.

Though unattractive whole, when filleted the fish yields a large firm very white piece of flesh with no pin bones, an indication of why it is so popular and valuable to fisheries, especially as a frozen product.

'Glacier 51' Toothfish is a premium product that comes from the MSC certified fishery around Heard and McDonald Islands in the Southern Ocean.

Also known as 'Sea Bass', 'Chilean Sea Bass' or 'Australian Sea Bass', though the Australian Fish Names Standard requires it to be sold only as Patagonian Toothfish.

Government Stock Assessment
Overfishing Biomass AMCS Listing Accreditations
Commonwealth No Overfishing Not Overfished Better Choice Marine Stewardship Council
  What do these terms mean?

The Why & How of Sustainability

The Patagonian Toothfish has a bad history, with a biology unsuited to intense fishing, widespread illegal catch and seabird deaths causing conservation agencies the world over to say “no” to choosing this Antarctic delicacy. The Australian fishery has come a long way in recent years, attaining Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for all the Australian fisheries in 2012. Additionally, Australian customs have successfully deterred much illegal fishing and managers have reduced seabird deaths to very low numbers. All toothfish sold in Australia must be documented as legally caught, so no illegal catch reaches our shores.

So as for a question of sustainability, toothfish sold in Australia is well managed and does not suffer from many of the issues experienced in the past and that still occur in international waters. It is a fish prone to overexploitation and like many fisheries, there are some seabird deaths – is this acceptable to you? Until recently, the AMCS said no. However, they recently revisited this assessment in light of substantial improvements in the fishery. Meanwhile, the Marine Stewardship Council and the Australian Government say it's ok.

P.S. It’s probably one to avoid if you’re overseas, as there is a chance that the toothfish may be illegally caught

Sustainable Alternatives:

ALTERNATIVE 1: Blue-Eye Trevalla

Blue-Eye Trevalla

BLUE EYE TREVALLA has mild flavoured, moist white flesh. These characteristics make it an excellent alternative to Patagonian Toothfish.

ALTERNATIVE 2: Mulloway

Mulloway

MULLOWAY has firm white meat and few bones, similar to Patagonian Toothfish. It has less oils in the flesh, so alter cooking times slightly to prevent it from drying out. A suitable alternative when Grilling, Frying, BBQ'ing or Baking.

ALTERNATIVE 3: Gurnard

GFBF Gurnard

The firm, white, mildly flavoured flesh of Gurnard can be used as an alternative to that of Patagonian Toothfish.

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