Antarctic toothfish

Dissostichus mawsoni

Common Name(s)

Antarctic cod, Antarctic blenny, Chilean sea bass

Medium Risk

Stable, not optimal but not poor status. AND Actions identified to reduce environmental impact and/or improve management or stock status. May be data deficient with stable catches.




Légine antarctique






Клыкач антарктический


Austromerluza antártica


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Date of Assessments

October 2021

Peer Reviewer


Assessment Organisation

The University of Hong Kong


Frozen gutted or filleted are the major form of Antarctic toothfish export products and therefore possibly available throughout the year, despite the restricted annually reviewed regional catch seasons.



  • Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) is a large-sized (up to over 2m total length and 120 kg) fish species in the Cod icefishes family (Nototheniidae). It is endemic to the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, mainly feeding on zooplankton and nekton.
  • Antarctic toothfish has late maturity at an average age of 16.6 years old and 133.2 cm total length. This makes the species vulnerable to targeted fishing when many juveniles are removed before maturation which means they have had no time to produce the next generation.
  • Spawning of Antarctic toothfish peaks in winter annually at distinct spawning areas. Eggs and larvae of the species disperse by currents during a long developmental phase. Ontogenetic migration occurs in the species which returns to where it was born.
  • Antarctic toothfish is a highly prized species in the international seafood market and sometimes referred to as ‘white gold’ for its high prices.
  • A close relative to the Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides), the Antarctic toothfish is found farther south around the edges of the Antarctic shelf, and a Marine Stewardship Council-certified fishery is active in the Ross Sea. Both species are sometimes marketed as Chilean sea bass.
  • Fisheries within the Antarctic region, including Antarctic toothfish, are managed by the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). Only research purposed catch is allowed in certain areas. Other management measures include controls on vessel entry, fishing gear, catch season and catch volume limits. There is mandatory catch documentation and observers must be used on vessels. Penalties for violations are implemented.
  • Demersal longline is the only fishing gear allowed for the fishery of this species. In the CCAMLR data, total reported catch of Antarctic toothfish in 2020 was about 4,150 tonnes within the annual catchable quota of about 5,000 tonnes for the year (CCAMLR 2021).
  • Effectiveness of management measures are evaluated as effective with little Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing estimated to be occurring. However, there have been cases of illegal fishing activities by vessels from various countries targeting Antarctic toothfish, for example in 2015, 2019 and 2021 respectively, which may continue to threaten the species.
  • In total 43 registered vessels from different countries are involved in the fishery of the species. A list of vessels involved in IUU fishing is maintained and publicly available at the CCAMLR website.

Demersal longlines

Demersal longlines have low levels of bycatch. All bycatch and subsequent releases of Macrourus spp. (rattails), rays and other species by operating vessels must be documented and reported to the CCAMLR. Since the gear involves no direct contact with and disturbance to the seafloor and other marine structural habitats, this method does limited damage to the marine environment.

  • The Latin species name
  • Is the product coming from the Ross Sea (MSC certified) or outside of the Ross Sea?
  • Evidence of the country of origin, vessel flag, and capture method
  • Evidence that the catch vessel has been authorized to fish (see https://www.ccamlr.org/en/compliance/licensed-vessels for a list of authorized vessels)
  • Evidence that fishing vessels are compliant with CCAMLR regulations, such as any seasonal or gear controls, did they have CCAMLR observers on board?
  • Evidence that the Hong Kong importer has complied with trade regulations


No Known FIP


  • Antarctic toothfish from the Southern Ocean (outside MSC certified Ross Sea fisheries) can be considered medium risk.
  • Antarctic toothfish can only be fished with demersal longlines in the Southern Ocean. This fishing method has low risk of bycatch or of damage to marine habitats.
  • Management of fisheries under the CCAMLR, including vessel entry, fishing gear, catch season and catch volume limits, is considered to be generally effective.
  • However, the biological characteristics of large body size, long life, and late maturity make the species highly vulnerable to overfishing. In addition, large proportions of the catch are below the maturity size of the species which could compromise reproduction and population replacement. Catch Per Unit Effort in many areas was declining according to the most recent data (CCAMLR 2021).