Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery

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    The Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery is managed by limiting catch and regulating what gear can be used.

    Patagonian toothfish is also caught by other countries. Australia’s catch of these species is part of the total catch internationally.

    Target Species

    Species Fishing Mortality* Biomass**

    Patagonian toothfish

    Dissostichus eleginoides

    G;Not subject to overfishing G;Not overfished

    * Fishing mortality status relates to the level of fishing pressure on a stock - specifically, whether fishing mortality in the year being assessed is likely to result in the stock becoming overfished, or prevent the stock from rebuilding from an overfished state. If fishing mortality exceeds either of these thresholds, a stock is considered to be subject to overfishing.

    ** Biomass status relates to how many fish there are - specifically, whether the biomass in the year being assessed is above the level at which the risk to the stock is considered to be unacceptable. The HSP defines this level as the limit reference point, below which the stock is considered to be overfished.

    Catch allowance

    Species2021–22 total allowable catch (tonnes)2022–23 total allowable catch (tonnes)2023–24 total allowable catch (tonnes)
    Patagonian toothfish555635635

    Download raw data on annual catches from AFMA catch disposal records and AFMA daily fishing logbooks.

    Total fishery value

    Confidential due to the small number of fishers.

    Fishing gear used

    In the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery, fishers mainly use longline fishing gear (demersal or bottom longline) to catch Patagonian toothfish.

    Read more about longline.


    Macquarie Island is a sub-Antarctic island about 1500 km south of Tasmania. The Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery covers the Australian waters surrounding this island.

    Major landing ports

    • New Zealand
    • Australia

    Markets supplied

    • Frozen product – Japan, United States

    Fishing season

    12 month season, beginning on 15 April.

    Management of catch

    This fishery is managed under a quota system that limits the amount of fish that boats can take in the fishery. Patagonian toothfish is managed by quota. This quota limit is also known as a total allowable catch. Under this system, each fisher is limited to catching up to the amount of quota that they hold and the whole fishery is limited to the total allowable catch that is set each season. Setting quotas is one of the main methods AFMA uses to ensure these fish species remain sustainable.

    Although the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery is not part of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), AFMA requires that fisheries in waters adjacent to the CCAMLR area, which includes Macquarie Island, are managed in a complementary manner to the CCAMLR requirements, which are considered to be more precautionary than the guidelines of the Commonwealth Fisheries Harvest Strategy Policy.

    The AFMA Commission decides on the total allowable catch each year using information provided by the fishery manager, industry members and scientists. The Sub-Antarctic Resource Assessment Group and the Sub-Antarctic Management Advisory Committee make recommendations to the AFMA Commission on what they think the catch limit should be for each fishing season.

    Licence to fish

    Fishers need to hold statutory fishing rights allocated by AFMA to fish in the Macquarie Island Fishery.

    Statutory fishing rights allow fishers to fish catch the fish species that are under a quota. Statutory fishing rights are transferable between fishers. Fishers must hold a percentage of statutory fishing rights, which limits the number of vessels to maximum of three.

    In this fishery there are currently:

    • 20 000 quota statutory fishing rights for Patagonian toothfish.

    Collecting data

    Data about the catch and effort of the fishery is collected from the logbooks fishers fill out for every fishing shot.

    Logbooks record:

    • the species and amount caught
    • the catch that is discarded
    • the catch/release of any protected species and their life status
    • the time and location of fishing activities
    • the type and amount of gear used.

    Species sustainability

    Australia (ABARES 2022):

    • Patagonian toothfish – not overfished and not subject to overfishing.

    Conservation dependent species rebuilding strategies

    Patagonian toothfish is currently considered sustainable and is not under a rebuilding strategy.

    Species risk assessments

    AFMA regularly monitors the effects fishing activities have on marine species, habitats and communities through ecological risk assessments. The assessment results help to prioritise the management, research, data collection and monitoring needs for the fishery.

    After the risk assessment is complete, an ecological risk management strategy is developed to address how AFMA will manage risks to marine species, habitats and communities identified in the assessment as impacted by commercial fishing operations.

    View all  fisheries risk assessments and strategies.

    Bycatch and discarding

    A bycatch and discarding workplan outlines ways to minimise the bycatch of species that are at a high risk of being caught as bycatch in the fishery. These species can include threatened, endangered and protected species and other non-target fish species.

    View all fisheries bycatch and discarding workplans.

    Export approvals

    To export from an Australian commercial fishery the fishery must be approved as a wildlife trade operation by the Department of the Environment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

    The Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery has been granted a five-year List of Exempt Native Specimens exemption, which allows export of fish product from the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery for a period of five years until 2026. The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water has included several recommendations on the exemption and AFMA must adhere to these throughout the length of the exemption.

    View the most recent accreditation conditions and recommendations that must be followed.

    Marine reserves

    Commonwealth marine reserves are areas established under Australian environmental law to help conserve the spectacular marine life in our oceans. They allow ecologically sustainable use of our marine resources and provide special places for people to enjoy and appreciate the fantastic diversity of our marine habitats.

    Marine reserves are sometimes known as marine protected areas or marine parks and are managed by the Department of the Environment. There is a Macquarie Island marine reserve.

    More information about marine reserves can be found on the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water website.

    Fishing in the fishery

    Fishing operators wanting to fish in the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery must hold:

    • quota statutory fishing rights for all target species in the fishery AND
    • a boat statutory fishing right.

    Download a copy of the latest Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery Management Arrangements Booklet for a full description of all fishing requirements in the fishery.

    Fishery legislation

    The management of the fishery is also governed by legislation.

    Management plan

    Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery Management Plan 2006.

    Total allowable catch determination

    The Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery Total Allowable Catch Determination 2017 sets the total allowable catch limits for each fishing season. These limits are decided by the AFMA Commission.

    Fishing industry

    Each fishing season, AFMA officers regularly meet with the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery industry to discuss any concerns. Discussions about the current trends in fishing and catches during the season are also valuable information gained at these meetings. This information is useful for the continuing management of the fishery.

    Sub-Antarctic Management Advisory Committee

    The Sub-Antarctic Management Advisory Committee  is the advisory body for the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery. The committee includes representatives from AFMA, industry, scientific agencies and environmental non-government organisations.

    The committee holds two meetings per year to discuss any problems relating to these fisheries and develop possible solutions.

    See the Sub-Antarctic Management Advisory Committee webpage for a summary of the latest discussions and outcomes from the committee.

    Sub-Antarctic Resource Assessment Group

    The Sub-Antarctic Assessment Group provides research and scientific advice for the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery. The group is composed of fishery scientists, fishing industry members, an economist, an AFMA representative and recreational representatives.

    See the Sub-Antarctic Resource Assessment Group webpage for a summary of the latest discussions and outcomes from the group.

    Government departments

    AFMA works closely with other government departments, such as the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water. They help in providing advice and guidance on both domestic and international fisheries issues.

    Environmental non-government organisations

    Representatives from environmental non-government organisations attend the management advisory committee meetings and provide input and advice.

    Map of the Macquarie Island Fishery

    Onboard observers

    One of the main monitoring methods used by AFMA is onboard scientific observers. These observers are people employed by AFMA to go out on boats and independently record the catch, effort and biological information of each fishing trip.

    They take samples from fish, such as the otoliths or ear bones, and use these to determine the age of the fish caught.

    Observers also record the length, weight and sex of each fish caught during a trip and report on the other wildlife that may be seen, the weather conditions, the composition of commercial catch fate of species that are caught as bycatch.

    Boats in the Macquarie Island Toothfish Fishery must carry an AFMA observer at all times.

    Read more about our Observer program.

    Satellite tracking

    A satellite monitoring system called a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) is fitted to every boat in the fishery. This system helps AFMA to monitor vessel position, course and speed. The tracking unit regularly transmits the information through a communications satellite to a station on land. This information is sent by secure internet connection to a database at AFMA.

    Read more about our satellite tracking program.


    AFMA fisheries officers regularly inspect fishing boats and fish receivers. They often visit fishing ports and board boats at sea to try to ensure the rules of fishing are being followed.

    For more information on AFMA’s compliance program, please see the compliance webpage.

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    Page last updated: 05/06/2024