The Argentine Senate unanimously approved on Wednesday a bill that severely sanctions fishing companies and their vessels illegally operating in the Argentine Sea (South West Atlantic), in other words without Argentine awarded licenses, reports the Buenos Aires press.
Even when the bill does not specifically mention the Malvinas/Falkland Islands the bill in practical terms becomes a ban for those vessels fishing with Falklands' government licenses in what Argentina considers "disputed waters". Sanctions include fines up to 10 million Argentine pesos (approximately 3.3 million US dollars) or seizure of the vessel caught "poaching". Even more controversial those "illegal" vessels operating in disputed waters and the companies they belong to are banned from fishing in any Argentine waters since they will not be awarded licenses. This prohibition is extensive to those companies or vessels that have "juridical, economic or profit" links with the "illegal" operating companies or vessels. This means that companies operating in the South Atlantic will have to choose between licenses extended by the Falklands government or Argentina. The original 2006 draft, sponsored by Senators from Chubut and Tierra del Fuego said the purpose of the bill was to help put an end to "fisheries depredation" and avoid the "collapse" of activities in Argentine waters. However during the Congressional debate several Senators (Marcelo Guinle from Chubut) was straight to the point and said the bill was targeted on to those "who with usurpation license are fishing in Argentine jurisdiction", adding that this "in line with the defense of our (Argentine) interests in the disputed zone". Senator Alfredo Martinez in representation of the opposition gave its support to the bill that was finally approved unanimously. The bill was first read and passed in the Senate in 2006, but the following year several amendments were introduced in the Lower House, apparently and according to the Argentine press to safeguard diplomatic language. At the time Jorge Arguello, then chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and currently ambassador before the United Nations argued that companies and vessels should have the opportunity of access to both fishing licenses, Argentine and from the Falkland Islands government. This would mean in diplomatic jargon, recognition of the existence of a sovereignty dispute. This mellower line however has been overrun by the more aggressive version.