Uruguay's head of the Fisheries Department Captain Yamandu Flangini warned about the expansionist attitudes behind developed countries maritime policies which could lead to serious limiting of fisheries activities and recalled that two Uruguayan longliners have already suffered the consequences of this initiative.
Interviewed in Montevideo by a local newspaper Mr. Flangini pointed towards Australia which apparently pretends to establish a 1,150 miles "maritime security" area beyond its current twelve miles territorial waters arguing that it must protect offshore oil and gas rigs.
"Actually this can be perceived as an expansionist and imperialistic attitude", underlined Captain Flangini adding that Australia's objective is really directed to ensure "economic interests in high seas fisheries". "This unilateral position as well as in other exclusion areas, be it for war or antiterrorist reasons, normally ends banning access to fisheries or having to request a special licence from the government that originally imposed this criteria".
Captain Flangini recalled the South Atlantic conflict in 1982 when "England established a 200 miles exclusion zone surrounding the Falkland Islands and began selling licences. For Argentina and for us (Uruguay) this was terrible because we were pushed out of a zone where we fished regularly. Uruguay was forced to the high seas, but now it seems even Australia could chase us out if they go ahead with their maritime security policy".
Further on the Uruguayan head of the Aquatic Resources Department said that if Australia manages to establish the "maritime security" principle which would then expand the territorial sea to 1.150 miles, "they simply would take over the Southern seas. So serious is the matter that even New Zealand protested because the Australian initiative would gobble areas of her territorial waters".
"If this criteria were to be adopted by Uruguay, our territorial waters would extend to mid Atlantic", emphasized Mr. Flangini.
As to the impact of this policy Mr. Flangini argued Uruguay has already suffered the consequences when the "unlawful" arrest of two longliners, "Viarsa" and "Maya V" by Australian authorities. "The islands which the Australians used as reference to claim the 200 miles EEZ are small rocky crop ups close to polar waters with no chance of life and therefore are not recognized by the Sea Convention as generators of economic rights", argued Captain Flangini who complained that both vessels were arrested in the high seas and "nobody has the right to arrest vessels in high seas".
Australian authorities arrested both Uruguayan flagged longliners, belonging to Spanish companies, for allegedly poaching toothfish. One of the vessels was chased for several weeks before been caught in a joint effort with South African and Falklands fisheries patrols.
"The "Viarsa" was arrested in the high seas by a third country flagged vessel (Saint Vincent) with South African personnel, all of which is contrary to the Sea Convention", highlighted Captain Flangini. Regarding the "Maya V", Mr. Flangini claims that according to the Law of the Sea only officers can be arrested, not crewmembers, but "Australia wanted with the involvement of an Australian Court to strengthen its sovereignty rights over those rocks in the Southern Seas and therefore had all the crew sent before a Judge".
Finally Captain Flangini described Australia's attitude as "worrisome and risky" since there's an evident commercial interest behind with the purpose of predominance in South Seas fisheries.
"Uruguay and the international community must be aware of this, and act in consequence".