Fisheries in the Weddell Sea

Fisheries in the Weddell Sea, as throughout the CCAMLR Convention Area, are managed under the ecosystem-based and precautionary approach, with management objectives that balance ‘conservation’ and ‘rational use’ of living resources. Catch limits are set using decision rules that ensure the long-term sustainability of the fishery. These limits and the other operational aspects specified in conservation measures determine when, where and how fisheries are managed to control and prevent potential negative impacts on the ecosystem. These regulations are typically tied to a specific fishing season, and currently apply to toothfish, icefish and krill fisheries. The status and management of the fisheries and their impacts on the ecosystem are reviewed annually by CCAMLR's Working Groups on Statistics, Assessments, and Modelling (WG-SAM), Ecosystem Monitoring and Management (WG-EMM), and Fish Stock Assessment (WG-FSA), as well as the Scientific Committee using the best available science and information. The status and management of the fisheries can be found in the CCAMLR Fishery Reports.

Currently, Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) is not targeted by licensed fisheries in the Weddell Sea region. Only in the eastern part of the Weddell Sea (CCAMLR Statistical Subarea 48.6) have Japan, South Africa and Spain been conducting Antarctic toothfish exploratory fishery using longlines. No more than one vessel per country may fish at any one time. This fishery is regulated by Conservation Measure 41-04, which is reviewed annually and adjusted as necessary. Fishing may occur only in the specifically designated areas (Research Blocks 48.6_2, 48.6_3, 48.6_4, 48.6_5) shown on the adjacent map (from CCAMLR Online GIS). The catch for Dissostichus mawsoni in Statistical Subarea 48.6 in the 2021/22 season was 351 tonnes (= 62 % of catch limit).

Although some years ago individual CCAMLR member states expressed the intention to conduct exploratory fisheries for Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) in the Weddell Sea, no krill is currently fished there.

Germany has no fishing interests either in the Weddell Sea or in other regions of the CCAMLR Convention Area.

Some facts about the Antarctic toothfish

  • it can reach a length of more than two meters and a weight of more than 150 kg

  • can live up to about 50 years

  • takes a long time to become sexually mature (about 13 and 17 years)

  • spawning interval unknown, may not spawn every year

  • apex predator, feeding on a variety of fish and squid

  • important prey for e.g. Weddell seals, killer whales and giant squids

  • highly valued on the world market

  • is called the "white gold" of Antarctica

  • attracts the attention of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing vessels