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Fishing down the food web of the Antarctic continental shelf and slope

  • David G. Ainley (a1) and Daniel Pauly (a2)

Abstract

The history of biotic exploitation for the continental margin (shelf and slope) of the Antarctic Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) is reviewed, with emphasis on the period from 1970 to 2010. In the Antarctic Peninsula portion, marine mammals were decimated by the 1970s and groundfish by the early 1980s. Fishing for Antarctic krill Euphausia superba began upon the demise of groundfish and now is the only fishing that remains in this region. Surveys show that cetacean and most groundfish stocks remain severely depressed, harvest of which is now prohibited by the International Whaling Commission and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). On the other hand, krill fishing in this region is underway and in recent years has contributed up to 72% of the Southern Ocean catch, depending on fishing conditions and the CCAMLR conservation measures in force. Elsewhere along the Antarctic continental margin, marine mammals were also severely depleted by the 1970s, followed directly by relatively low-level fisheries for krill that continued until the early 1990s. Recently in these areas, where fin-fishing is still allowed, fisheries for Antarctic toothfish Dissostichus mawsoni have been initiated, with one of this fish's main prey, grenadiers Macrourus spp., being taken significantly as by-catch. Continental margin fishing currently accounts for ~25% of the total toothfish catch of the Southern Ocean. Fishing along the Antarctic continental margin, especially the Antarctic Peninsula region, is a clear case of both the tragedy of the commons and ‘fishing down the food web’.

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Fishing down the food web of the Antarctic continental shelf and slope

  • David G. Ainley (a1) and Daniel Pauly (a2)

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