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Finfish and Benthic Research in the Antarctic

We study commercially-fished species in support of fisheries conservation and management in the Southern Ocean.

Bryozoan reef is displayed in the center of the photo against a black background. This habitat is located below the surface of the water.

Antarctic seafloor habitat consisting of large bryozoan reef structures off the Antarctic Peninsula at a depth of 350 m. These bryozoans create complex three-dimensional structures and provide habitat for other marine organisms, including demersal finfish and other benthic invertebrates. This region is currently a registered Vulnerable Marine Ecosystem, and is protected from any fishing gear that interacts with the seafloor. Photo: NOAA Fisheries/Christopher Jones.


Finfishes and benthic habitats represent critical components of the Antarctic marine ecosystem and can be impacted through certain commercial fishing activities. The United States historically participated in Antarctic finfish commercial fisheries, and currently represents the single largest consumer of Antarctic finfish. Because of the importance of finfish, the Finfish and Benthic Habitats Research Program conducts research and provides scientific advice for the management of Antarctic finfish in the Southern Ocean. Our Antarctic fish research component primarily focuses on Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish; two species that are commercially fished and served in restaurants and markets as Chilean sea bass. These species serve as both important predator and prey components within the Antarctic ecosystem.

We also conduct research into benthic (seafloor) habitats, particularly Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems. These seafloor features are comprised of a number of invertebrate taxa that exhibit characteristics making them both critical to the seafloor ecosystem and highly vulnerable to disturbance from human activities. Finally, we work with international partners to collaboratively develop and provide scientific advice for the the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) concerning catch limits of finfish species, detection and management of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems, and other Conservation Measures that form the basis of Antarctic marine resource and ecosystem management (See a list of NOAA International and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations).