The long liner Viarsa 1 incident and the three weeks hot pursuit in Antarctic waters that attracted world attention have reached the Uruguayan Parliament.
Uruguay's National Aquatic Resources Department Director, DINARA, Captain Yamandú Flangini has been summoned this Wednesday to the International Affairs Committee of the Lower Chamber where he will be grilled about Uruguay's fisheries licensing policy and the recent "Viarsa 1" incident allegedly sighted poaching valuable tooth-fish in Australian waters.
Members of Parliament are also interested in the diplomatic and institutional consequences of the incident that was described by Uruguayan Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Opertti as a "legal, political and diplomatic" issue which the country must address and defend its rights.
During the first of the three weeks incident the Uruguayan government claimed jurisdiction over the fleeing Uruguayan flagged longliner which was ordered to return to Montevideo after an Australian fisheries patrol vessel allegedly sighted "Viarsa 1" poaching in Australian waters. With the help of South African and Falklands vessels "Viarsa 1" was finally boarded, arrested and now it being escorted to Freemantle Port in Australia where she will face formal charges.
Uruguayan officials have repeatedly requested Australian authorities that the Uruguayan scientific observer onboard "Viarsa 1" and his documentation regarding the catch be let ashore in the nearest port.
Mr. Opertti revealed that this week he will be meeting the Australian Ambassador in Buenos Aires, (concurrent in Montevideo) to analyze the situation: "whether Australians acted according to the rule of the law", or "in an abusive interpretation of international law".
Uruguay, as well as Australia and South Africa are full members of Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, an organization responsible for the allocation of fishing quotas in Antarctic waters including the very valuable and much poached toothfish.
According to Dinara's files eighteen vessels have been licenced by Uruguay to catch tooth-fish. Six of them including "Viarsa 1" must operate off Uruguayan jurisdiction and the common fisheries zone with Argentina. ("Atlantic 52"; "Carran"; "Elqui"; "Isla Algegranza" and "Lugal Pesca").
The other twelve vessels, with C licences can operate in "special, non traditional" fisheries. They are: "Dorita", "Lerez", "Marie", "Pesca Chile 1", "Pesca Chile 2", "Punta Ballena", "Sofía Star", "Viking Sky", "Viking Sur" and "Viriginia".