Galician fishing captains in the South Atlantic are shocked with the recent arrest by an Argentine Coast Guard vessel of the Spanish flagged trawler Jose Antonio Nores which was caught supposedly poaching late February in Argentine waters, reports El Faro from Vigo.
"Six Korean vessels were in the area closer to the Argentine territory but they went straight for the Galician vessel, and they do this because we pay the fines", complained Captain Jose Gonzalez from "El Greco" flagged in the Falkland Islands and Antonio Soage, "Costa del Cabo" captain. Both vessels were operating close to the "Jose Antonio Nores" which was finally escorted to Comodoro Rivadavia.
All Spanish flagged vessels which operate in the South Atlantic, according to "El Faro", are constantly monitored by satellite from the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Madrid.
"Official Spanish data indicates that the "Jose Antonio Nores" was just barely towards the Argentine coast; actually 18 metres, something imperceptible and very hard to quantify. But they went after the Galician vessel because the Argentines know we pay the fines but the Chinese, Koreans and Taiwanese prefer to sink their vessels before been taken to port, since the lightest fine is close to a million dollars", complained Captain Goanzalez.
"El Faro" indicates that the Galician fleet in the South Atlantic, 25 with Spanish flag and 17 Falklands' flagged is well aware that if the sanction is accepted and the fine paid, the vessel is off the hook in 15 to 30 days. "But if you consider yourself "not guilty" the vessel can remain moored for over six months".
"When arrested, Korean vessels prefer to abandon the vessel and won't pay a cent. We Galicians pay immediately because we want to keep working", said Captain Soage who underlined that "it's too obvious that these incidents always occur over the weekend when the Spanish Embassy in Buenos Aires is closed", and vessels are then escorted to a port in the end of the world, 1,800 kilometres from the Argentine capital.
"Jose Antonio Nores" was finally released two weeks later after having paid a 200,000 US dollars fine. Although the Spanish vessel defence was reluctant to accept the fine arguing that Spanish and Falklands' data, confirmed by the vessel's "blue box", clearly showed the vessel was not operating in Argentina's EEZ, they agreed to pay so "Jose Antonio Nores" could continue catching.
"El Faro" from Vigo also highlights that the Argentine government is involved in a mediatic campaign against foreign jiggers. Apparently they've organized a trip in a Navy aircraft for the Argentine press to see with their own eyes the "300 foreign vessels, mainly Asian" catching squid in the 200 miles high seas boundary, and much tempted to cross into Argentina's EEZ.