Fisheries and Resources Monitoring System

Patagonian toothfish - South East Atlantic
Marine Resource  Fact Sheet
Stock status report 2018
Patagonian toothfish - South East Atlantic
Fact Sheet Citation  
Patagonian Toothfish
Owned bySouth East Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (SEAFO) – More
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FAO Names: en - Patagonian toothfish, fr - Légine australe, es - Austromerluza negra, ru - Клыкач патагонский
Geographic extent of Patagonian toothfish - South East Atlantic
Main Descriptors
Considered a single stock: No        Spatial Scale: Regional
Management unit: Yes        Reference year: 2017
Biological State and Trend
State & Trend Descriptors
Exploitation rateUncertain/Not assessedGray
Abundance levelUncertain/Not assessed

Fishing for Patagonian toothfish in the SEAFO CA started around 2002. The main fishing countries working in the area include vessels from Japan, South Korea, Spain and South Africa. Historically a maximum of four vessels per year fished in the SEAFO CA. The Spanish longline system and the Trotline (Fig. 1) are the fishing gears commonly used.

Figure 1 Fishing gears used to fish D. eleginoides: Spanish longline system (top) and the Trotline (bottom).

Habitat and Biology
Climatic zone: Temperate; Polar.   Bottom type: Unspecified.   Depth zone: Abyssal ( >1000m).   Horizontal distribution: Oceanic.   Vertical distribution: Demersal/Benthic.  

Patagonian toothfish is a southern circumpolar, eurybathic species (70-1600m), associated with shelves of the sub-Antarctic islands usually north of 55ºS. Young stages are pelagic (North, 2002). The species occurs in the Kerguelen-Heard Ridge, islands of the Scotia Arc and the northern part of the Antarctic Peninsula (Hureau, 1985; DeWitt et al., 1990). This species is also known from the southern coast of Chile northward to Peru and the coast of Argentina, especially in the Patagonian area (DeWitt, 1990), and also present in Discovery and Meteor seamounts in the SE Atlantic (Figure 3) and El Cano Ridge in the South Indian Ocean (López-Abellán and Gonzalez, 1999; López-Abellán, 2005).

In SEAFO CA the stock structure of the species is unknown. The CCAMLR Scientific Committee in 2009 noted that in most years (since 2003) the main species caught in CCAMLR sub-area 48.6 (adjacent to and directly south of SEAFO Division D) is D. eleginoides. The distribution of the species appears to be driven by the sub-Antarctic front which extends into the SEAFO CA.

Figure 2 Species geographical distribution in the SEAFO CA (source: Species profile on the SEAFO website).

Geographical Distribution
Jurisdictional distribution: Straddling between High Seas and EEZ

In SEAFO CA, the fishery from 2011 to 2017 took place in Sub-Area D, being concentrated over seamounts in Division D1, at Discovery seamount and also at seamounts located in the western part of Sub-Area D (Fig. 3).

Figure 3 Reported catch of Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) aggregated to 100 km diameter hexagonal cells (2011-2017).

Table 1 Number of sets by year and location.
Year Western Discovery D1- Meteor
2010 27 5 118
2011 1 207 54
2012 68 207 25
2013 0 108 57
2014 100 64* 13
2015 0 24 127
2016 0 22 67
2017 34 0 0

*No catch information provided for 56 sets

Table 1 shows that the main fishing ground is located on Discovery seamount and also in D1 but less hauls were deployed in the western seamounts of Sub-Area D.

Water Area Overview
Spatial Scale: Regional

Geo References
Resource Structure
Considered a single stock: No

Table 2 presents data on Patagonian toothfish catches and discards listed by country, as well as fishing gear used and the management area from which catches were taken. Discards were mainly due to parasite infection of fish. In the last three years with complete data (2015, 2016 and 2017) retained catches were 59, 60 and 12 t respectively and the annual weight of discarded specimens was less than 1 t in the three year period.

Table 2 Catches (tons) of Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) by South Africa, Spain, Japan and Korea.
Nation Spain Japan Korea South Africa
Fishing method Longlines Longlines Longlines Longlines
Management Area D0 D0 D1 D0 D1 D0 D1
Catch details (t) Ret. Dis. Ret. Dis. Ret. Dis. Ret. Dis. Ret. Dis. Ret. Dis. Ret. Dis.
2002 18                          
2003 101   47       245              
2004 6   124                      
2005 N/F N/F 158       10              
2006 11   155                      
2007 N/F   166                      
2008 N/F N/F 122 0 N/F N/F 76              
2009 N/F N/F 86 0 74 0 16 0 46 0 N/F N/F N/F N/F
2010 26 0 N/F N/F 54 2 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F
2011 N/F N/F 159 6 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F 15 0 28 0
2012 N/F N/F 86 3 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F 24 0 12 0
2013 N/F N/F 41 2 19 1 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F
2014 N/F N/F 67 6 12 <1 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F
2015 N/F N/F 7 <1 52 <1 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F
2016 N/F N/F 7 <1 53 <1 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F
2017 N/F N/f 12 <1 N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F N/F

N/F = No Fishing; Blank fields = No data available; Ret.= Retained catch; Dis. = Discarded catch

Table 3 Catches (tons) of Antarctic toothfish (Dissostichus mawsoni) by South Africa, Spain, Japan and Korea.
Nation Japan
Fishing method Longlines
Management Area D0 D1
Catch details (t) Ret. Disc. Ret. Disc.
2014 ˂ 1 0 0 0
2015 0 0 0 0
2016 0 0 0 0
2017 0 0 N/F N/F

N/F = No Fishing; Blank fields = No data available; Ret. = Retained; Disc. = Discarded

Retained and discarded bycatch from the Patagonian toothfish fishery are presented in Table 4. The two most important species (in terms of weight) are grenadiers (GRV) and Blue antimora (ANT).

Table 4 Retained and discarded bycatch from the Patagonian toothfish fisheries (kg).
  2009 2010 2011
  Ret. Dis. Ret. Dis. Ret. Dis.
Species D0 D1 D0 D1 D0 D1 D0 D1 D0 D0
GRV     89 5833 4047 1936 93 2601   22414
ANT     126 4786     453 1348   4794
BYR 1221   573              
MCC     336 896            
BEA 360                  
MZZ               168    
SRX                   30
MRL     108         1   2
COX     2             21
SKH     90              
LEV     36       4      
KCX       1     3 35    
BUK             17      
NOX                   7
MWS                   6
SSK             2      
CKH             1 1    
KCF     1              

  2012 2013 2014
  Ret. Dis. Ret. Dis. Ret. Dis.
Species D0 D1 D0 D1 D0 D1 D0 D1 D0 D0
GRV 2012 2013 2014 2012 2013 2014 2012 2013 2014 2012
ANT Ret. Dis. Ret. Ret. Dis. Ret. Ret. Dis. Ret. Ret.
BYR D0 D1 D0 D0 D1 D0 D0 D1 D0 D0
MCC     23705     23705     23705  
BYR     4442     4442     4442  
SKH     124     124     124  
LEV     37     37     37  
KCX     75     75     75  
MWS     31     31     31  
KCF     2     2     2  

  2015 2016 2017
  Ret. Dis. Ret. Dis. Ret. Dis.
Species D0 D1 D0 D1 D0 D1 D0 D1 D0 D1 D0 D1
GRV     1221 1579 1197.7     2496.7     1338.3  
ANT     452 598     27.4 117.6        
SRX     16               19  
MRL     2       0.7       0.2  
KCX         9.1     1.4     2.1  
HYD     233                  
ETF     1                  
RTX     146                  
BSH     89                  
HIB     18       0.9          
LEV     5                  
CSS             0.68 3.88     6.91  
GGW             0.01 9.54     1.41  
AXT               0.12     303  
PFR               0.84     0.52  
OWP               0.6        
AGZ                     0.06  
AJZ                     0.06  
AQZ                     0.1  
AZN                     0.59  
GSK                     12  
GWD                     0.08  
NTW                     0.02  
OEQ                     1.14  
ZOT                     1.12  

BSH: Blue shark (Prionace glauca); ETF: Blackbelly lanternshark (Etmopterus Lucifer); HIB: Deep-water arrowtooth eel (Histiobranchus bathybius); LEV: Lepidion codlings nei (Lepidion spp); ANT: Blue antimora (Antimora rostrata); BEA: Eaton's skate (Bathyraja eatonii); BYR: Kerguelen sandpaper skate (Bathyraja irrasa); COX: Conger eels, etc. nei (Congridae); CKH:Abyssal grenadier (Coryphaenoides armatus); BUK: Butterfly kingfish (Gasterochisma melampus); HYD: Ratfishes nei (Hydrolagus spp); LEV: Lepidion codlings nei (Lepidion spp); KCX: King crabs, stone crabs nei (Lithodidae); MCC:Ridge scaled rattail (Macrourus carinatus); GRV: Grenadiers nei (Macrourus spp); MWS: Smallhead moray cod (Muraenolepis microcephalus); MRL: Moray cods nei (Muraenolepis spp); NOX: Antarctic rockcods, noties nei (Nototheniidae); MZZ: Marine fishes nei (Osteichthyes); KCF: Globose king crab (Paralomis formosa); ETF: Blackbelly lantern shark (Etmopterus lucifer); SEC: Harbour seal (Phoca vitulina); SRX: Rays, stingrays, mantas nei (Rajiformes); SKH: Various sharks nei (Selachimorpha(Pleurotremata)); (Rajiformes); SSK: Kaup's arrowtooth eel (Synaphobranchus kaupii).

Ret.= Retained catch. Dis. = Discarded catch


There are no agreed stock assessments.


The number of fishing sets sampled from 2006 onwards indicates a good sampling level in line with the SEAFO preliminary guidelines for data collection (Table 5). On average 20 specimens were measured per sampled fishing set, which is considered acceptable given the length range of the exploited population. It will be necessary to apply in future this sampling effort of 20 individuals in all sampled fishing sets (Figure 4).

Table 5 Annual analysis of sampling effort conducted on board fishing vessel.
Year No. of Sets Observed Mean number of Individuals sampled per set Min. Individuals sampled per set Max. Individuals sampled per set
2006 146 22.16 1 31
2007 222 11.61 1 57
2008 120 23.69 2 110
2009 275 17.97 1 58
2010 125 26.91 1 60
2011 263 32.95 1 60
2012 298 20.58 1 57
2013 164 19.87 1 70
2014 176 25.50 3 50
2015 149 17.23 1 23
2016 88 17.63 2 20
2017 32 15.03 1 25

Figure 4 Frequency distribution of sample size per set. Data from Observer Reports submitted to SEAFO. N = number of sets sampled per year; n = total number of individuals sampled.

Assessment Model
Length data and frequency distribution

Figure 5 shows the annual total length frequency distributions of Patagonian toothfish catches based on the observer data from all fleets submitted to SEAFO. Length frequency distributions for the period 2009-2017 suggest a shift towards smaller lengths in the catches in more recent years. The proportion of large fish appears to be declining.
Figure 5 Annual total length frequency distributions D. eleginoides raised to total catches per year for SEAFO CA Sub-Area D.

Length-weight relationships

Table 6 shows the length-weight relationships by sex based on observer data from Japanese fleet in 2013.

Table 6 Length-weight relationships by sex based on observer data from Japanese fleet in 2013.
Samples a b r2 n
Males 1E-06 3.4484 0.9768 405
Females 2E-06 3.4296 0.9579 860

Age and growth parameters

There is no available information for this species in the SEAFO CA.

Reproductive parameters

There is no available information for this species in the SEAFO CA.

Natural Mortality

There is no available information for this species in the SEAFO CA.

Feeding and trophic relationships (including species interaction)

There is no available information for this species in the SEAFO CA.

Tagging and migration

Eleven specimens were tagged in Subarea D in 2006 and fourteen in 2010 (Spanish flagged Viking Bay vessel). However, there is no available information on recoveries of tagged specimens or on tagged specimens tagged at adjacent areas of CCAMLR.

Reference Point

In 2015 the Commission adopted a TAC of 264 t in Sub-Area D applying the harvest control rule, and zero tonnes for the remainder of the SEAFO CA for 2016.

The SC notes that in both 2015 and 2016 about 22% of the TAC was taken (incl. the experimental fishery), hence the fishery is not constrained by the TAC.

The application of the HCR requires as input a 5-year time-series of recent CPUE data. The CPUE series applied in 2015 was derived by pooling all available data in the SEAFO CA. No analysis was made to determine if pooling was a valid approach. Also, the series first discussed in 2016 was not standardised as in 2015, and questions were asked about the consistency of the analysis between years.

The SC explored standardization using generalised linear models (GLM), but the explorations indicated that the variance explained was too low to extract meaningful results, hence further efforts would be required. There were, however, clear indications of significant area-effects, hence pooling of data from different fishing areas was probably not valid.

The SC then resorted to deriving CPUE series for separate fishing areas for which the more extensive continuous time-series of catch and effort data are available in the SEAFO database, i.e. the Meteor and Discovery seamounts. Data from the Western part were excluded from the assessment as the time series was not complete. Only Japanese data within the 2011 agreed footprint, i.e. from the party taking the bulk of the catch in all years, were used in order to retain consistency through the time series.

It is uncertain whether the two CPUE series shown in Fig. 6 reflects abundance, but in the absence of other alternatives, the series from Meteor and Discovery were considered valid for the derivation of TACs using the recommended and accepted HCR.

The CPUE series as derived both have best estimates of slope close to zero. For Discovery the best estimate is slightly negative, for Meteor the estimated slope was zero (Fig. 6).

Figure 6 Upper: Average slope in Meteor (left) and Discovery(right) for 5 years CPUE (2012-2016). Lower: Average slope based on the weighted average of two slopes.

Management unit: Yes

Management Advice

Applying the HCR based on a weighted average of the CPUE slopes on Meteor and Discovery a TAC estimate of 266 t was derived. The SC recommends a TAC for Subarea D of 266 t and a zero TAC for the remainder of the SEAFO CA for the years 2017 and 2018.

Source of information
SEAFO “SC-SEAFO-2017. Report of the 13th Annual Meeting of the SEAFO Scientific Committee. SEAFO SC Report 2017.” 2017 Click to open
Arana, P. “Reproductive aspects of the Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) off southern Chile. Lat. Am. J. Aquat. Res., 37(3): 381-394.” 2009.
Dewitt, H.H., P.C. Heemstra and O. Gon. “Nototheniidae. In: Fishes of the Southern Ocean, O. Gon and P.C. Heemstra (Eds.). J.L.B. Smith Institute of Ichthyology, Grahamstown, South Africa: 279-331.” 1990.
Horn, P.L. “Age and growth of Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) and Antarctic toothfish (D. mawsoni) in waters from the New Zealand subantarctic to the Ross Sea, Antarctica Fisheries Research, 56:275-287.” 2002.
Hureau, J.C. “Family Nothoteniidae-Antarctic rock cods. In: FAO species identification sheets for fishery purposes. Southern Ocean: Fishing Areas 48, 58 and 88 (CCAMLR Convention Area). Fischer, W. and J.C. Hureau (Eds). FAO, Rome, vols. I-II, 470 p.” 1985.
López-Abellán L.J. and J. González “Results of the longline survey on the seamounts in the southeast Atlantic and in the CCAMLR Subarea 48.6 (Atlantic Ocean) and Division 58.4.4 (Indian Ocean). CCAMLR Science, Vol. 6: 99-116.” 1999 Click to open
López-Abellán, L.J. “Patagonian toothfish in international waters of the Southwest Indian Ocean (Statistical Area 51). CCAMLR Science, 12: 207–214.” 2005 Click to open
Prager, M. “User’s Manual for ASPIC: A Stock-Production Model Incorporating Covariates (ver. 5) and auxiliary programs, Population Dynamics Team, Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 101 Pivers Island Road, Beaufort, North Carolina 28516 USA: National Marine Fisheries Service Beaufort Laboratory Document BL-2004-01.” 2004.
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