Chilean Sea Bass: Back in Stores But Still in Trouble

Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
November 28, 2006

A trendy fish nearly loved to death by diners has received a limited green stamp of approval.

But conservationists warn that the Patagonian toothfish, known commercially as the Chilean sea bass, remains in serious trouble.

(Photo gallery: "Sea Bass Fishers Weather the Storm.")

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)—a London-based nonprofit that certifies fish from sustainable, monitored fisheries—has given its OK to Patagonian toothfish caught in one fishery.

But that fishery, located near South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands on the cusp of Antarctica (See a printable map of the South Sandwich Islands), accounts for only 10 percent of the legal trade in Chilean sea bass, the group says.

"[T]he South Georgia fishery is a sustainable fishery … . [I]f people want to buy toothfish, they should look for toothfish that has the MSC label," said Jim Humphreys, a Seattle-based MSC regional director.

Humphreys conceded that the Patagonian toothfish faces "significant problems" elsewhere.

MSC certification identifies producers who fish sustainably. The seal of approval seeks to provide consumer-driven economic incentives to boost sustainable fisheries.

Mixed Message?

But some conservationists worry about the green label.

"We think it confuses the consumer," said Mark Stevens, of the Washington, D.C.-based National Environmental Trust (NET).

"They may not know that this represents only 10 percent of the Chilean sea bass that is on the market," Stevens added.

Continued on Next Page >>


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