Argentina contributes for the destruction of the species Southern Blue Whiting in the South West Atlantic claim Falkland Islands Fisheries Department scientists and fishing company executives.
Fisheries Biologist/ Marine Ecologist Dr Paul Brickle of the Falklands’ Fisheries said “It’s a sad demise to a rather lucrative fishery due to poor management and lack of a regional fisheries management authority.”
The species that spawns around the Falklands Islands in the Cape Meredith area was once an item high on the agenda of the South Atlantic Fisheries Commission (SAFC) an authority where the Falkland Islands and Argentina were able to share stock assessment information and agree Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of South-West Atlantic Stocks.
In 2005 Argentina walked out of the Commission and since then has refused to cooperate or share any data with the Falklands.
Director of Fortuna Ltd Stuart Wallace explained that when the SAFC was in existence a TAC for Southern Blue Whiting was set at 50,000 tonnes, divided between the Falklands and Argentina, “although even then Argentina would go on to fish around 60,000 tonnes”.
Since 2005 Argentina under the two Kirchner presidents has gone on to fish for a great deal more than that amount on a yearly basis.
The country pronounced a 60,000 tonne TAC in 2010 but only 11,000 tonnes of that was actually achieved; and scientific research points to a maximum of around 21% (potentially as low as 13%) of the virgin spawning stock biomass remaining.
“Argentina has fished it out to the point where levels are no longer commercial,” said Mr Wallace.
In the Vessel Units Allowable Effort and Allowable Catch 2012 created by Falkland Islands Fisheries Department scientists it notes: “This declining trend and lack of regional data highlights the need for a resurrection of the SAFC, or at least have some agreement on data sharing and management.
“This decline has almost definitely impacted the ecosystem. The large numbers of Southern Blue Whiting removed from the system have likely played a part in the increasing abundance of Rock Cod.
“Due to this pessimistic outlook there is no reason to change the S licence TAC from 6,000 tonnes.
“We also recommend that the temporal closure of the Southern Blue Whiting spawning grounds in September remained closed for 2012 and for the foreseeable future.”
On a more optimistic note, it states: “Although this paints a pretty grim picture it looks like the spawning area closure last year has resulted in a better recruitment the first half of 2011.”
At the meeting of the Fisheries Committee on Wednesday Mr Wallace summed it up saying “It’s a pretty desperate situation”. (PN)