International incidents involving Uruguayan-flagged vessels, the Maya V and Viarsa I recently detained in Australian waters for illegal fishing leaves only four of the original ten Uruguayan deep-sea vessels operating outside their jurisdiction.
According to the Montevideo daily El País, the National Directorate of Aquatic Resources (DINARA) has suspended permits issued to the Maya V, Atlántico 52, Ave Phoenix and Sherpa Uno vessels within the past 60 days. Similarly they revoked possible renovation of licensing for Viarsa I and stripped the Lugalpesca vessel of its flag. This last vessel had been reported by the national Trade Union of Fishermen and Workers (SUNTMA) for illegal fishing also in Australian waters.
Director of DINARA, Yamandú Flangini assured that the new measures taken were sure to strip all vessels of their flags. If the intention of these companies was to fish in an illicit manner, using the Uruguayan flag, as was demonstrated in the majority of the suspensions, from now on "those to come will be transparent, good and clean," he pointed out to El País.
Ecology groups and member countries of the Commission for the Conservation of Live Antartic Marine Resources (CCLAMR) have accused Uruguay of sheltering "pirate" vessels under their flag, which are known to catch toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) as well as other species, illegally.
Mr. Flangini nonetheless maintains that "the Uruguayan flag is serious" and complies with international law requirements and conventions to which the country is adhered. His opinion coincides with that of the Centre for Captains and Pilots of the Merchant Marines, an institution which the captain of the Maya V, Charles Thomas is a member.
There might be companies which commit irregularities, but Uruguay is not a "pirate" nation, a source from the Centre indicated. He added that Australia wants to degrade the image of the country in order to remove it from the CCLAMR, an international organisation in charge of issuing permits for toothfish.
Yet, Guillermo Laurido, director of the Centre for Naval Machinists insists that there is "no doubt" that Uruguay is involved in international pirating. He said, the majority of companies who seek a Uruguayan flag have Spanish capital and in general have never called into a Uruguayan port.
Thus, Mr. Laurido calls for a review of the Uruguayan fishery policy to avoid having "Uruguayan nationals imprisoned far away for a crime they did not commit", but rather for having worked on these kinds of vessels.
Mr. Flangini clarified that DINARA only denies a licence on technical grounds and when not in agreement with Uruguayan legislation, but not because of who does the actual presentation. "Generally an interested party will present itself, the same as when a company sets up a bank, nobody knows who the actual owner is", explained Mr. Fangini: Nonetheless DINARA rejects vessels that appear on "listings of illegal vessels published by international conventions". (FIS/MP).-