Antarctic Finfish Research Program

rotatingfishSeveral stocks of Antarctic finfish in the Southern Scotia Arc region were decimated in the 1970s and 1980s due to unmanaged commercial harvest. The rapid declines of catch lead CCAMLR to impose a moratorium on all finfish fishing in 1990 in order to protect the remaining fish stocks. The U.S. has been active in fishing in the Southern Ocean in the past decade, targeting fish such as the Antarctic toothfish, which has become popularly known in U.S. restaurants and fish markets as Chilean sea bass.

The Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division ( AERD) conducts semiannual bottom-trawl research surveys to characterize the populations and biological features of Antarctic demersal finfish species. These surveys allow the assessment of fish stocks and the understanding of species inventory, demographics, population dynamics and prospect of recovery. They also allow CCAMLR to asses the potential for reopening closed areas for harvest. These surveys are conducted in the Southern Scotia Arc region of the Southern Ocean, primarily around the South Shetland Islands, the Antarctic Peninsula, and the South Orkney Islands - areas where finfish fishing activities continue to be prohibited. Data collected during the finfish research surveys include biomass, spatial distribution, size and maturity, reproductive characteristics, age and growth and predator-prey interactions.

Research objectives include estimation of stock status and characterization of population dynamics for finfish species in the region that have had commercial importance, as well as composition, inventory and dynamics of other demersal Antarctic finfishes. Additional datasets collected during demersal surveys are used to characterize Antarctic seabed habitats (including bathymetry and seabed characteristics), and physical oceanographic characteristics. Results from the demersal finfish surveys have led to numerous publications and the development of scientific advice that underpins the Conservation Measures that CCAMLR has adopted for finfishing throughout the Southern Scotia Arc region.

The Antarctic Finfish Research Program is lead by Dr. Christopher Jones.


CCAMLR moratorium on fishing.

AMLR 2008/09 Field Season Report, including reports on finfish research conducted in the vicinity of the South Shetland Islands, South Orkney Islands and the Antarctic Peninsula.

Geographic locations of AMLR Finfish research areas and stations sampled, CCAMLR subareas, and small-scale management units.

Photos and images

Finfish by S. Willhelms

Underwater Camera System

Finfish distribution in the South Shetland Islands by C. Jones

Ski Monkey

Research activities

  • NOAA's AERD collaborates with Yale University to improve our understanding of the genetic diversity of Antarctic finfish species.
  • U.S. Southern Ocean Scientific Observer Program lead by Dr. Christopher Jones.

Latest news

  • Dr, Jones appears in National Geographic, 6/24/2009

Recent publications

  • La Mesa, M, A De Felice, CD Jones and K-H Kock. 2009. Age and and growth of spiny icefish (Chaenodraco wilsoni Regan, 1914) off Joinville–D’Urville Islands (Antarctic Peninsula). CCAMLR Science 16: 115–130.
  • Kuhn, KL, TJ Near, CD Jones and JT Eastman. 2009. Aspects of the biology and population genetics of the Antarctic nototheniid fish Trematomus nicolai. Copeia 2:320-327.
  • Near, TJ, CD Jones and JT Eastman. 2009. Geographic intraspecific variation in buoyancy within each of four species of Antarctic notothenioid fishes. Antarctic Science 21(2):123-129.