The exploratory fishery for Dissostichus spp. has now been operating for 16 years in Subarea 88.1 and for 10 years in Subarea 88.2. This report summarises the timing, depth, and location of fishing together with the catch of Dissostichus spp. and bycatch species by year for the period 1997–98 to 2011–12. During the 2011–12 fishing year most of the catch in Subarea 88.1 came from the slope SSRU 88.1K. About 70% of the catch in the north was taken from 88.1C, and about 85% of the catch on the shelf was taken from 88.1J. As in the past, most of the catch in Subarea 88.2 was taken from SSRU 88.2H in the north.
Unstandardised Antarctic toothfish CPUE (catch per hook and catch per set) in the Ross Sea and Subarea 88.2 fisheries have fluctuated over the past 10 years with no overall upward or downward trend. There is no evidence of any truncation of the overall length frequency distribution in any of the SSRUs, but there has been a marked reduction in median fish length in SSRUs 88.1H and 88.1I over the last 2–3 years. This appears to be at least partly a result of vessels carrying out more fishing in shallower parts of the slope, but could also reflect fishing on different parts of the slope, or a pulse of strong year classes. We conclude that there is no evidence for substantial changes in population structure or abundance of Antarctic toothfish at the regional (Subarea) or local (SSRU) level.
We also present a characterisation of the main six bycatch groups including macrourids, skates, icefish, eel cods, morid cods and rock cods & ice cods for the first time. For each bycatch group the main species are identified and the location and depth distribution of catches and catch rates rates are plotted.