Don't Order the Sea Bass

Chilean Sea Bass with Almonds and Pistachios in Garlic Sauce? Baked Ginger Snap Crusted Chilean Sea Bass with Kiwi Lime Sauce? Coast to coast, Chilean Sea Bass can be found on restaurant menus. But when eateries offer such fish, they actually serve Patagonian toothfish, a species being rapidly depleted in the Southern Ocean. 

The long-lived fish can survive to be 80 years old but has a difficult time recovering from over-exploitation with its slow reproductive rate; this is compounded by the fact that unregulated, unethical pirate fishers take toothfish at unsustainable levels. The Honorable Warren Truss, Australian Fisheries Minister, in September stated that a vessel suspected of poaching Patagonian toothfish had been sighted in Australian waters: "The suspect vessel's crew attempted to conceal its identity by obscuring its name and registration number and when approached fled the scene."

The Antarctica Project reports, "If pirate fishing continues at its current rate, scientists estimate that the Patagonian toothfish could be commercially extinct in less than three years." The Project asserts that pirate fishers are responsible for over eighty % of the total catch - valued at five hundred million dollars. Toothfish fishing also causes the slaughter of numerous non-target species. Over 300,000 sea birds have reportedly been killed after being hooked on the fishers' gear and drowned. This includes the majestic albatross—twenty species of albatross are listed on the 2000 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

According to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), "The high level of illegal and unregulated fishing for toothfish…threatens stocks of toothfish through over-fishing, and populations of seabirds through incidental capture and mortality during longlining." Despite this recognition, however, the 23 participating CCAMLR governments still set toothfish fishing quotas at its October 2000 meeting. Mark Stevens of The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition lamented that the participants "all but ignored scientists warnings [about] the massive pirate fishing of toothfish in Antarctica's oceans." Stevens continued: "CCAMLR is simply making wild guesses when it comes to estimating how much toothfish pirate fishers are pulling out of the Southern Ocean ecosystem."