Finalist, Seafood Champion Awards Advocacy Category

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An article in the June issue of Fishing News captured succinctly why COLTO is among the finalists in the Seafood Champion Awards. In the article it stated that “A decade ago there was an extensive fleet of illegal boats plundering the Southern Ocean; today Southern Ocean toothfish is an example of what a clean, well-managed fishery should be.”

COLTO ships intercept pirate fishing boatsSince its establishment in 2003, COLTO has brought together some 32 members from 11 countries to work in unison to adopt stringent industry guidelines for responsible fishing and accountability. The efforts of COLTO and its members have contributed to radical reductions in seabird mortality, reduction in illegal fishing, and helping achieve that most of the Patagonian toothfish marketed in the world today is certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. This is a great step forward for this organization that together is estimated to produce over 90% of the global catch of toothfish.
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COLTO has become an exceptionally important industry advocate to help bring to fruition several of the intended targets of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Living Resources (CMLAR).

Concerns for over-exploitation of marine resources in Antarctica led to the establishment of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) by international convention already in 1982. Some 35 nations have since worked together to establish an international management regime for large parts of the Southern Ocean.

However, consensus among ratifying nations to manage the Southern Ocean responsibly is not enough. There needs to be enforcement of environmental guidelines and recommended best practices. In order to achieve this, one factor is especially crucial – active participation by the fishing industry.

This is where COLTO has done an exceptional job for the Antarctic environment. Since its establishment in 2003, COLTO has brought together some 32 members from 11 countries to work in unison to adopt stringent industry guidelines for responsible fishing and accountability. The efforts of COLTO and its members have contributed to radical reductions in seabird mortality, reduction in illegal fishing, and helping achieve that most of the Patagonian toothfish marketed in the world today is certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

This year, COLTO has taken an intiative to bring together the fishing industry, scientists and the fishing gear industry to the set agenda for further development of this success in the years to come, in an international workshop in that is held on June 25-26 in Ålesund, Norway.

COLTOs model of science-based industry leadership, effective and constructive communication with NGOs, the media and relevant authorities, serves as a model for fishing fleets in other regions that have yet to build a similar success story. Today, the fisheries for Patagonian toothfish in the Southern Ocean ranks among the world’s best examples of something done right. The industry has been instrumental in moving this from papers and documents into the real world – and no one has been a more effective advocate for this development than COLTO.

What local and/or international partners does COLTO work with?

COLTO works in close dialogue with the secretariat of the CCAMLR (Hobart, Tasmania) and all its some 32 member companies from 11 nations.

How well does COLTO and its work demonstrate the qualities of the category?

We feel that COLTO shows exceptional skills in advocacy. The COLTO secretariat combines industry knowledge with deep knowledge of the scientific and environmental issues that are pertinent to Antarctic fisheries. In combination with these necessary prerequisite for being relevant and focussed, COLTO shows outstanding communication skills; it always engages NGOs, fishing companies and government agencies in respectful and constructive dialogue, focussing on facts, and shows an exemplary capacity for avoiding the polarization that so often damages the dialogue betweeen market/NGOs and industry.

In what ways has COLTO positively affected, or mitigated negative impacts of, the seafood industry?

COLTO requires every member to commit to sustainable and ethical practises. The reduction in seabird mortality and illegal fishing that has been seen since the inception of COLTO is nothing short of staggering. By building, step by step, international recognition for its work and that of its member companies, COLTO has succeeded in showing the markets that there are sources of sustainably procured seafood that can be trusted. The high prices achieved for Patagonian toothfish, recognised as sustainable seafood, is also a great achievement: this creates a situation where fishing companies can have a sound business without being forced to focus only on the quantity of landings.

In what way could COLTO’s story inspire others and communicate successes achieved in sustainable seafood?

We believe COLTO is one of the world’s best examples of how the fishing industry itself can help transform a war of attrition between fishermen and conservationalists into a win-win situation that truly benefits both the environment, the fishing industry, and eventually, the enlightened seafood consumer who wishes to make the right consumer choices.

How would COLTO’s work serve as a replicable model for others who want to have a similar impact?

The history of COLTO is lucid and replicable. COLTO has pursued a formula of good communication with the scientific community and regulatory bodies (especially CCAMLR) and fishing companies, to build an industry standard that it asks its members to endorse. It has a small but highly effective secretariat that responds immediately to inaccurate criticisms of the industry by press and NGOs, by providing good documentation through a respectful dialogue; it keeps its members informed of environmental and regulatory issues that concerns the industry, and calls its members to action where necessary.

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