Fisheries Infosite

Fishing in the Ross Sea

Background – responsible management

The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) is the organisation responsible for managing the Marine Living Resources of the Ross Sea.

As a member of CCAMLR, New Zealand is committed to its principles, which provide for the conservation (including rational use), of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

For more information about CCAMLR and international management of the toothfish fishery, see

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) advises the Government on the implementation of the Antarctic Marine Living Resources Act 1981 with the Ministry of Fisheries.

MFAT leads New Zealand’s participation in CCAMLR. It promotes New Zealand’s interests in conservation and sustainable management of the marine living resources of the Southern Ocean, and in particular the Ross Sea, in accordance with the CCAMLR Convention. New Zealand supports strong environmental standards and sustainable economic benefits within this context. See

The Ministry of Fisheries (MFish) provides technical fisheries science and management support to the management of the Ross Sea toothfish fishery:

  • Expert science advice on toothfish and bycatch species, including the Ross Sea tag based stock assessment for toothfish in the Ross Sea
  • Expert science advice on the impacts of fishing on marine ecosystems
  • Expert compliance and management advice on the development of conservation measures that include bycatch measures, reporting and monitoring requirements, and pollution control.

MFish manages the participation of New Zealand vessels in the Ross Sea toothfish fishery, including:

  • Issuing permits for the vessels authorised by CCAMLR to fish in the Ross Sea
  • Conducting pre and post trip inspections by Fishery Officers and Maritime New Zealand vessel safety inspectors
  • Issuing and verifying catch documentation for all legally caught toothfish landed in or exported from New Zealand
  • Investigating and sanctioning breaches of CCAMLR Conservation Measures or permit conditions
  • Contracting and reviewing science required for scientific working groups and CCAMLR Commission meetings
  • Participating in the scientific working groups and CCAMLR Commission meetings
  • Developing proposals for improving management of the fishery and presenting them to CCAMLR.

The Ross Sea Antarctic toothfish fishery

The Ross Sea Antarctic toothfish fishery is one of the most effectively managed fisheries in the world.

The New Zealand Government supports the effective management of the fishery through monitoring, vessel inspections and patrolling, as well as a substantial programme of scientific research and stock assessment.

Only fishing vessels authorised by CCAMLR are permitted to operate in the Ross Sea toothfish fishery. Authorised fishing vessels are required to:

  • Carry two independent observers at all times
  • Only fish within stringent catch limits set by CCAMLR
  • Only use authorised longline fishing methods
  • Report daily on all catch (both target and bycatch)
  • Report their position via satellite vessel monitoring system continuously from the time the vessel leaves port until it returns
  • Follow strict measures to avoid any accidental bycatch (only one sea bird has been caught in the history of the Ross Sea toothfish fishery)
  • Meet sampling and tagging requirements both for toothfish and other bycatch species

CCAMLR bases all management decisions on the best available science, which indicates that the Ross Sea toothfish fishery is in very good health, and that it is being managed cautiously and effectively.

New Zealand contributes a significant amount of scientific research to support CCAMLR’s management of the Ross Sea and Convention Area, including research on toothfish biology and stock assessment for the Ross Sea.

The 2009 stock assessment for toothfish in the Ross Sea indicates that the spawning stock is currently at approximately 80 percent of virgin spawning stock biomass.

New Zealand vessels have participated in the Ross Sea toothfish fishery since it was initiated in 1996/97.

Over the last two seasons, four New Zealand flagged vessels have been authorised by CCAMLR and New Zealand to operate in the Ross Sea toothfish fishery.

CCAMLR electronic catch documentation scheme for toothfish

The CCAMLR electronic catch documentation scheme (ECDS) requires all fishing vessels licensed to operate in the CCAMLR Area, including the Ross Sea, to record their catch and have it verified through the ECDS.

The ECDS requires licensed vessels to obtain a catch document from their flag State and for the catch to be verified by the authorities in the country where it is landed or exported.

The ECDS allows legally caught, sustainably harvested toothfish to be tracked from where it is caught in the CCAMLR Area to the country where it is sold.

Ross Sea toothfish longline fishery MSC certification assessment

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is a private certifier. The fishing industry has reached a private agreement with MSC to consider certification of the toothfish fishery.

The New Zealand Government encourages companies to take steps that will improve environmental performance and to gain recognition for the management measures in place already.

IUU fishing

Illegal, unreported or unregulated (IUU) fishing has not historically been a major problem in the Ross Sea. New Zealand vessels have one of the best compliance records.

However, Antarctic Toothfish is a valuable species and is at risk from IUU fishing activity.
A range of steps have been taken to discourage IUU fishing in the Ross Sea. Over the last few seasons, an increasing number of known IUU vessels have been operating in or near the Ross Sea.

New Zealand contributes practical support to efforts to combat IUU fishing activities in the CCAMLR Area. This support includes aerial patrolling of the Ross Sea and the inspection of toothfish vessels that enter port in New Zealand. These activities help to ensure that such vessels are authorised to operate in the CCAMLR Area and do so in accordance with relevant CCAMLR Conservation Measures.

Inspections and aerial patrols undertaken by New Zealand have been successful on a number of occasions and as a result vessels such as the Paloma V have been IUU listed by CCAMLR.

Contact us about this page    Last updated 24/01/2017