The Patagonian toothfish fishery is expanding worldwide and it may play a pivotal role in the development of an Australian fishing industry in the Southern Ocean. The recommended TAC for toothfish in other Southern Ocean regions was revised upwards by the 1996 CCAMLR scientific committee. For example, in the CCAMLR area 58.5.2 (primarily the AFZ around Heard and McDonald Islands) a TAC of 3800 metric tonnes of toothfish was set. As a result considerable national and international interest in the fishery is expected.
Given the conservation value of Macquarie Island it is expected that operation of the fishery will be closely scrutinised -- the scrutiny is already clear at the national ( MACSAG, AFMA, DPIE and conservation groups) level. Development of the Macquarie Island fishery provides a great opportunity as a demonstration project to illustrate that fishery development can be achieved while protecting conservation values -- a demonstration of Ecologically Sustainable Development in action. Furthermore, much of what will be learnt will also be relevant to the emerging Heard Island toothfish fishery.
To date little research has been done to establish the basic biological parameters of the toothfish necessary to develop sound management policies. As recognised by both the Macquarie Island Fish Stock Assessment Group and the Sub-Antarctic Ecosystem Assessment Group there is a real need to develop a comprehensive program of research which not only addresses basic biological parameters such as age and stock structure, but also examines the distribution and abundance of this species so that effective management of the fishery can proceed. As the Macquarie Island area is likely to be sensitive to possible ecosystem changes brought about by a developing fishery, there is also a need to understand where toothfish 'fit into' the broader offshore Macquarie Island ecosystem, and likely ecosystem effects.