For all licensed fishing vessels in the world, the activities of illegal, unlicensed and unregulated vessels are a real cause for concern. The effect on stocks of unregulated fishing has caused many around the world to reach critical levels, and the dumping of illegal fish on the market can cause price fluctuations to occur to the detriment of both the buyers and the producers. Having once been one of the products most affected by these activities, the illegal and unreported capture and sale of toothfish is now virtually eliminated, thanks to the efforts of many organizations and individuals around the world.
CCAMLR, the Convention on the Conservation of Marine Living Resources, set up a catch documentation procedure for toothfish known as a DCD (Dissostichus Catch Document) which traces the importation and movement of toothfish products around the world. Adopted by most countries in the world, the scheme has made it extremely difficult and costly for IUU vessels to discharge their cargo.
Some countries, such as the USA (a principle market for toothfish products), have taken further steps by refusing importation of any toothfish product from vessels that have not consistently reported their position to CCAMLR using a centralized VMS system. This allows CCAMLR to track all toothfish vessels which are seeking to export product to the USA.
The Industry has also responded. In 2003 the Coalition of Legal Toothfish Operators (COLTO) was established. This organization devised a scheme whereby fishermen working on illegal vessels could claim a reward if providing information which could lead to a conviction of the vessel owners. With the success of this enterprise, COLTO has dedicated more effort in recent years to combat the negative and outdated perception of toothfish as a threatened species. With 70% of toothfish fisheries now MSC Certified, there is clear evidence of the sustainability of toothfish fisheries.