Certified as sustainable in March 2004.
Recertified on the 17th September 2009.
Thanks to Claire (Comment, Oct 19, 2009) who suggested we look at this fishery.
The Patagonian toothfish lives in deep waters (from 300 to 3,500 metres) on seamounts and continental shelves and around most sub-Antarctic islands. It is a slow-growing, late maturing species and therefore not reslient to fishing pressure. The Patagonian toothfish fisheries off Argentina and around Prince Edward and Marion Islands (under South African jurisdiction) were fished to commercial extinction over short period of time and illegal fishing around Crozet Islands has also substantially reduced that population.
Obviously there would be concerns about the South Georgia fishery as well. A paper in Russian by Shust and Kozlov in 2006 (Вопросы ихтиологии 46(6):791-298) found a decrease in average size and a high percentage catch of immature fish compensating for a reduction in the fraction of large fish over time in the commercial fishery. These could be interpreted as signs for concern.
However, the stock assessments produced by CCAMLR (an RFMO) and used by the consultants for the MSC certification suggest a stock that is being fished down from high unexploited levels towards Bmsy. While not yet at Bmsy, it is projected to reach that level in about 2040 at the current harvest of about 4kt. The last assessment was in 2007 and there will be a new one this year (2009).
After 1985 the longline fishery moved from summer day-setting to winter night-setting to mitigate seabird bycatch. Navy patrols deter IUU and there is strict catch documentation with 100% observer coverage.
The CCAMLR objective for the stock is to maintain spawning biomass above 50% of unfished levels with probability 0.5 and to ensure probability of spawning biomass being below 20% of unfished levels is never greater than 0.1. These conditions appear to be currently met and should continue to be met if the catch continues at the current level of about 4kt.
So, on the face of it, the MSC certification consistent with a sustainble fishery.
Please comment on errors or ommissions – Fishyfellow is not very familiar with this fishery.