Historically, many commercial fish species in the Southern Ocean have been heavily exploited. WWF works to ensure that ecosystem-based management and sound fisheries management measures are introduced for all commercial fisheries in the Southern Ocean.
The primary management framework for fisheries in the Southern Ocean is the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)

The Convention, which came into force in 1982, establishes a Commission. Commission Members include countries which border the Southern Ocean or have territorial claims in the region such as Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Norway and UK, plus a number of fishing nations with no direct links to the region - fishing vessels come from the Ukraine, Japan, The European Community, Korea, and other distant countries.

Together they collaborate in reaching decisions to improve the management of Southern Ocean fisheries. Decision-making is by consensus, and once decisions are reached, the consensus reaching process generally results in good implementation of decisions.

Through ASOC, an environmental coalition with observer status, WWF is present and active in the CCAMLR discussions, advocating improvements to the management of the Southern Ocean and in particular ensuring an ecosystem-based approach, particularly with respect to fishing management. In this way, WWF can influence the final decisions adopted.

Sustainable Fisheries

When first established CCAMLR members initially found it difficult to stop the over exploitation of Antarctic krill as little was known of the life scycle of krill.

Antarctic rockcod, another commercially targeted species, was brought to the brink of commercial extinction. Through scientific research, more is now known about the fish stocks and the life cycles of the individual species and management of the major commercial fish stocks is improving.

In recent years, precautionary and innovative management measures have been agreed for a number of fish stocks.

A ground-breaking success, for which WWF campaigned, has been the initiation, development, adoption and application of a catch documentation scheme for Patagonian toothfish. This allows consumers to buy toothfish from guaranteed legally caught sources. WWF also works with innovation partnerships such as the Coalition of Legal Toothfish Operators (COLTO)

COLTO is an international alliance of fishing companies with representatives from Argentina, Australia, Chile, Falkland Island/Isles Malvinas, France, Namibia, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and Uruguay.

While there remains plenty of scope for improvement, CCAMLR is now considered a global model for applying the precautionary principle and developing ecosystem-based management of fisheries.

WWF works to ensure that ecosystem-based management and sound fisheries management measures be introduced for all commercial fisheries in the Southern Ocean, including consideration of predator/prey relationships and potential impacts such as climate change and the value of fisheries closures and marine protected areas.

An ultimate test of a sustainable fishery is whether it merits independent certification - currently two Southern Ocean fish stocks have received Marine Stewardship Council certification.

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Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing

Southern Ocean fish stocks are being targeted, not just by the managed and regulated operators, but by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) or so-called "pirate" vessels.

These IUU operators do not apply conservation measures or minimise bycatch through the use of sound mitgation technology, they do not recognise the closures that protect the juveniles, nurseries and habitats, they invest nothing in the future sustainability of the fishery or the systems that support them.

Through CCAMLR considerable effort has been made to eliminate IUU fishing in the Southern Ocean and latest estimates show that the IUU fish catch has decreased in the past three years.

Further work will be needed however, as the global demand increases for fish, vigilance and preventative action will need to be constant and on-going. IUU fishing has increased in three fishing sub-regions and this accounted for 90% of the 3,080 tonnes estimated IUU catch in 2005/06. It is believed that IUU fishing is largely responsible for the continuing bycatch of seabirds.

WWF is working to ensure that measures to reduce IUU fishing are introduced, including port to port reporting of Vessel Management System data by all licensed fishing vessels; full, mandatory implementation of electronic catch documentation schemes; improvements in the procedures for listing IUU vessels and publication of blacklists of beneficial owners and flag states of blacklisted vessels.

IUU vessels may be flagged by CCAMLR Members or Parties or by countries not participating in CCAMLR such as Togo, Bolivia, Georgia, Belize or Equatorial Guinea.

In addition, IUU is a global challenge which requires closer collaboration between CCAMLR and other regional fisheries bodies - particularly where albatrosses and other seabirds range across adjacent seas.

WWF is encouraging governments and fisheries management bodies to share information on authorized and blacklisted fishing vessels and lobbying for related information on vessel operators and beneficial owners to be made public.

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WWF promotes solutions to overexploitation of fish stocks in a number of ways, including supporting the certification of sustainable marine fisheries.

Through certification of sustainable fisheries, fish products purchased by consumers can be marked in such a way that they can be easily identified as having been sourced from sustainable exploited stocks, with minimal impact on the environment.

In particular, WWF supports the work of the Marine Stewardship Council "whose role is to recognise, via a certification programme, well-managed fisheries and to harness consumer preference for seafood products bearing the MSC label of approval."

Currently, eight Southern Ocean fish stocks have been certified. In 2005 the South Georgia Toothfish which is fished around the island of South Georgia and the plateau to the west of Shag Rocks within the 200nm maritime zone, received Marine Stewardship Council certification.

This was closely followed in 2006 by MSC certification of the Australian mackeral icefish which is caught between 13nm and 200nm off the Heard and McDonald Islands.

The area from 0nm to 12nm off the Heard and McDonald Islands is protected from fishing.


Bycatch remains a significant threat to albatross and other Souther Ocean seabird populations, however there has been a major success in the introduction of mitigation techniques in the CCAMLR region.

In the 2005/06 fishing season, for the first time there was no reported bycatch of albatrosses in regulated longline fisheries. This doesn't however mean that no albatross are dying since the IUU fishing bycatch of albatross is not recorded. In addition, there is now recognised to be a bycatch of seabirds in trawls, and albatross and other Southern Ocean species are still being caught by longliners outside of the CCAMLR sea area.

WWF is urging all countries fishing in the Southern Ocean , particularly those fishing nations that lie beyond and within the migratory range of albatross and petrels to sign and ratify the relevant international agreements dealing with management and protection of marine resources, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the UN Fish Stock Agreement and the UN FAO's International Plans of Action on IUU and on seabird bycatch.

These nations must also develop and implement national plans of action (NPOAs) which will reduce seabird deaths in both longline and trawl fisheries. WWF is also encouraging all CCAMLR Members to increase cooperation and to ensure that measures and mitigation techniques which have been successful in the Southern Ocean, are transferred to regional fisheries management frameworks adjacent to the CCAMLR area, where albatrosses and other Southern Ocean seabirds range as they feed.

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