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Mackerel Icefish

Champsocephalus gunnari

  • Heather Patterson (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences)
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Stock Status Overview

Stock status determination
Jurisdiction Stock Fisheries Stock status Indicators
Commonwealth Heard Island and McDonald Islands HIMIF Sustainable Spawning stock biomass
HIMIF
Heard Island and McDonald Island Fishery (CTH)
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Stock Structure

Genetic studies have concluded that Mackerel Icefish at Heard Island and the McDonald Islands constitute a single biological stock, which shows differences from icefish populations in the Atlantic and on the neighbouring Kerguelen Plateau1,2.

Here, assessment of stock status is presented at the biological stock level—Heard Island and McDonald Islands.

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Stock Status

Heard Island and McDonald Islands

The Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery (Commonwealth) (HIMIF) falls within the Convention Area of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). This intergovernmental organisation was established to conserve and manage the Southern Ocean Antarctic ecosystem. CCAMLR employs precautionary harvest strategies that consider the role of target species within the larger ecosystem. For Mackerel Icefish, the CCAMLR harvest strategy, which includes decision rules to set the catch limit, requires that the spawning stock biomass must be maintained at 75 per cent of the level that would occur in the absence of fishing at the end of a two-year model projection.

The Mackerel Icefish assessment in 2015 for the HIMIF used an abundance index from a random stratified trawl survey3. Given the high interannual variability in the population abundance of this species, CCAMLR does not use an estimate of unfished biomass; the TAC is set to allow a harvest of only 25 per cent of the current biomass over a two-year period. The most recent assessment estimates the 2015 biomass of Mackerel Icefish to be 5123 tonnes (t)4. Using the CCAMLR harvest strategy decision rules, the yield for the 2015–16 fishing season was calculated to be 482 t, which it is estimated will ensure maintenance of a spawning stock biomass of at least 75 per cent of unfished biomass over the two-year projection period4. The stock is not considered to be recruitment overfished. This TAC was endorsed by CCAMLR after review5,6. This level of fishing mortality is unlikely to cause the stock to become recruitment overfished7.

On the basis of the evidence provided above, the Heard Island and McDonald Islands biological stock is classified as a sustainable stock.

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Biology

Biology
Species Longevity / Maximum Size Maturity (50 per cent)
Mackerel Icefish 4+ years; ~450 mm TL 2 years; 240–260 mm TL

Mackerel Icefish biology2

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Distributions

Distribution of reported commercial catch of Mackerel Icefish

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Tables

Fishing methods
Commonwealth
Commercial
Otter Trawl
Management methods
Method Commonwealth
Commercial
Area restrictions
Catch limits
Individual transferable quota
Active vessels
Commonwealth
1 in HIMIF
HIMIF
Heard Island and McDonald Island Fishery (CTH)
Catch
Commonwealth
Commercial 10.00t in HIMIF
Indigenous None
Recreational None
HIMIF
Heard Island and McDonald Island Fishery (CTH)

Recreationala,b Indigenousc

 a The Australian Government does not manage recreational fishing in Commonwealth waters. Recreational fishing in Commonwealth waters is managed by the state or territory immediately adjacent to those waters, under its management regulations.

b There is no recreational or Indigenous fishing for Mackerel Icefish.

c The Australian Government does not manage non-commercial Indigenous fishing in Commonwealth waters, with the exception of the Torres Strait. In general, non-commercial Indigenous fishing in Commonwealth waters is managed by the state or territory immediately adjacent to those waters.

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Catch Chart

Commercial catch of Mackerel Icefish

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Effects of fishing on the marine environment

  • Three ecological risk assessments (by gear type, including demersal trawl, midwater trawl and demersal longline) for non-target species in the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery (Commonwealth) (HIMIF) found that the risk to the sustainability of non-target species was low, and no species was determined to be at high risk8.
  • Australia implements regulations, in line with those of Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, to minimise the environmental impact of fisheries in the HIMIF9. These include bycatch mitigation measures such as weighted longlines and bird scaring lines; specific reporting requirements for seabird or marine mammal interactions; bycatch catch limits; bycatch and offal discharge restrictions; closed areas; and a requirement to carry two scientific observers.
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Environmental effects on Mackerel Icefish

  • Increasing sea surface temperatures could impact Mackerel Icefish around subAntarctic islands where their distribution is limited. Mackerel Icefish lack haemoglobin10,11 in their blood and rely on highly oxygenated, cold water.
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References

  1. 1 Williams, R, Smolenski, AJ and White, RWG 1994, Mitochondrial DNA variation of Champsocephalus gunnari Lonnberg (Pisces: Channichthyidae) stocks on the Kerguelen Plateau, southern Indian Ocean, Antarctic Science, 6: 347–352.
  2. 2 Williams, R, van Wijk, E, Constable, A and Lamb, T 2001, The fishery for Champsocephalus gunnari and its biology at Heard Island (Division 58.5.2), WAMI-01/04, CCAMLR Workshop on Assessment Methods for Icefish, Hobart.
  3. 3 Nowara, GB, Lamb, TD and Welsford, DC 2015, The annual random stratified trawl survey in the waters of Heard Island (Division 58.5.2) to estimate the abundance of Dissostichus eleginoides and Champsocephalus gunnari for 2015, WG-FSA-15/11, CCAMLR Working Group on Fish Stock Assessment, Hobart, 5–16 October 2015.
  4. 4 Welsford, DC 2015, A preliminary assessment of mackerel icefish (Champsocephalus gunnari) in Division 58.5.2, based on results from the 2015 random stratified trawl survey, WG- FSA-15/12 Rev. 1, CCAMLR Working Group on Fish Stock Assessment, Hobart, 5–16 October 2015.
  5. 5 Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources 2015, Report of the Working Group on Fish Stock Assessment, WG-FSA-15, CCAMLR Working Group on Fish Stock Assessment, Hobart, 5–16 October 2015.
  6. 6 Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources 2015, Report of the thirty-fourth meeting of the Scientific Committee, SC-CAMLR-XXXIV, CCAMLR Scientific Committee, Hobart, 19–23 October 2015.
  7. 7 Patterson, H and Savage, J 2016, Heard Island and McDonald Islands Fishery, in H Patterson, Noriega, R, L Georgeson, I Stobutzki and R Curtotti (eds), Fishery status reports 2016, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, Canberra, 421–431.
  8. 8 Zhou, S, Fuller, M and Smith, T 2009, Rapid quantitative risk assessment for fish species in seven Commonwealth fisheries, report for the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, Canberra.
  9. 9 Australian Fisheries Management Authority 2013, Bycatch and discarding workplan: Australian sub-Antarctic fisheries, AFMA, Canberra.
  10. 10 Near, TJ, Dornburg, A, Kuhn, KL, Eastman, JT, Pennington, JN, Patarnello, T, Zane, L, Fernández, DL and Jones, CD 2014, Ancient climate change, antifreeze, and the evolutionary diversification of Antarctic fishes, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109: 3434–3439.
  11. 11 Constable, AJ, Melbourne-Thomas, J, Corney, SP, et al. 2014, Climate change and Southern Ocean ecosystems I: how changes in physical habitats directly affect marine biota, Global Change Biology, 20: 3004–3025.

Archived reports

Click the links below to view reports from other years for this fish.