Patagonian Toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) is a large, slender
fish found in the cold, temperate waters (from 50 to 3850m) of the Southern Atlantic, Southern Pacific, Indian
and Southern Oceans on seamounts
and continental shelves around most sub-Antarctic islands. A commercial
fishery exists for Patagonian Toothfish; the meat is sold under the trade names
Chilean Sea Bass in the USA and mero in Japan, and high prices
are paid for it. Illegal overfishing threatens the species as it is slow-growing,
reaching maturity between 10 and 12 years of age. The average weight of a commercially
caught toothfish is 9 kilograms (20 pounds) with adults reaching a maximum of
113 kilograms (250 pounds). They are thought to live to 50 years, reaching a length
of 2 metres (6.5 feet).
catches may be up to five times the legal catch limit. As a direct result, some
researchers have predicted a total collapse of the fishery within two to five
years. Called the "white gold of the Southern Oceans," illegal toothfish catches
are unloaded at so-called "pirate ports" in countries such as Namibia,
Mauritius, South Africa's
Prince Edward Islands,
and Australia's Heard Island
and McDonald Islands. The fish are then sold on the black market, a single
sashimi-grade specimen fetching
as much as USD $1,000.
toothfish feed largely on squid and prawns and, in turn, constitute a large part
of the diets of sperm whales and Southern Elephant Seals.