Changes in the fish biomass around Elephant Island (Subarea 48.1) from 1976 to 1996
Finfish stocks in the Antarctic Peninsula region (Subarea 48.1) were exploited from 1978/79 to 1988/89, with most of the commercial harvesting taking place in the first two years of the fishery. Results of bottom trawl surveys conducted by Germany in the vicinity of Elephant Island in the 1980s showed that stocks of Champsocephalus gunnari, Notothenia rossii, Gobionotothen gibberifrons and Chaenocephalus aceratus have been considerably affected by fishing. Stocks of G. gibberifrons and C. aceratus had apparently recovered to a large extent by the second half of the 1980s, while C. gunnari stocks remained at a low level. The status of N. rossii is still unclear, although some recovery was apparent from length compositions obtained in the 1980s. The Antarctic Peninsula region was closed for finfishing from 1989/90 onwards. Results of the first bottom trawl survey carried out after the closure of the area in November/December 1996 suggested that the biomass of the standing stock of finfish may have further declined. Given the low abundance of C. gunnari and other species and the difficulties encountered in managing fisheries which exploit mixed-species assemblages, there appears to be little prospect at present of re-opening the fishery around Elephant Island.