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Mackerel icefish (Champsocephalus gunnari)
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Fish and squid

The fish fauna in the Antarctic is characterized by the domination of a few species groups, in particular the Antarctic cod or Notothenoids. An extraordinary group among the Notothenoids is the icefish (Channichyidae) with its unique adaptation of lack of haemoglobin in the blood. Icefish are associated with the continental shelves and are important prey for predators higher up like whales, seals and seabirds. In deeper waters eel-pouts (Zoarcidae) and snail fish (Liparidae) dominate the fish fauna.

A few fish species in the Southern Ocean are harvested commercially. The Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) is the most important commercial species, and is fished by longlines at deep waters on the shelf break. The mackerel icefish (Champsocephalus gunnari) is caught to a limited extent and under strict regulations in the Scotia Sea.  

Squid in the Antarctica are very common, but like in most ecosystems, their ecological role is not well understood. They range in size from small to gigantic and are important prey for higher trophic levels. In waters adjacent to the Southern Ocean, e.g. around the Falkland Islands, there are big fisheries for squid. 

What is an ecosystem?

Ecosystems are often described in terms of energy transfer between levels of the food chain. Behind the energy transfer, however, a life or death struggle between predators and prey is taking place. This struggle, in which every individual tries to make the most of itself by spreading its genes, results in what we call the “interplay of nature”. This interplay is fascinating, both as a field of study and as a management problem.

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