Exchanges of information between the Falkland Islands and Argentina about fish and squid stocks could begin again before the middle of this year, if all parties are in agreement. Director of Natural Resources John Barton said: “Dialogue with Argentina on the conservation of shared marine resources has the potential to allow for better management of shared fish stocks and improve sustainability of such stocks.”
Asked what format the meetings might take and would he and his senior scientists attend, he said, “It is early and exploratory on this process at present, so we can say more once we know.”
The Falkland Islands Fishing Companies Association Executive Secretary James Bates told Penguin News the Association had welcomed, the introduction of measures, “aimed at improving our understanding and management of fish stocks, provided that information flows both ways and that it doesn’t become a one way street.”
According to a statement from Gilbert House on Wednesday, the September 2016 Joint Communiqué between the UK and Argentina highlighted the need for improved cooperation and positive engagement on South Atlantic issues of mutual interest.
It said: “In this context, the Falkland Islands Government has been working with the UK Government to progress discussions on fish and squid stocks in the South Atlantic, and the possibility of resuming the exchange of scientific fisheries data.”
The last meetings of this type took place around 2007 under the auspices of the South Atlantic Fisheries Commission (SAFC).
For 15 years the SAFC worked as quite an effective conservation organization. It facilitated the exchange of fisheries data, joint research cruises, joint scientific analysis, and recommended coordinated conservation advice to respective governments.
However around 2005 Argentine President Nestor Kirchner withdrew from scientific cooperation between the Falklands and Argentina and then later Argentina exited the meetings entirely.
When his wife and presidential successor Cristina Kirchner came to power she appeared to embark on an outright offensive against the Falklands fishery. In particular, by allowing high catches of a species that spawns around the Falklands (Southern Blue Whiting).
Argentina, during the Kirchner governments, contributed to the commercial destruction of the species.
In 2011, it was Director of Fortuna Ltd Stuart Wallace who explained that when the SAFC was in existence a Total Allowable Catch for Southern Blue Whiting was set at 50,000 tons, divided between the Falklands and Argentina, “although even then Argentina would go on to fish around 60,000 tons.”
From 2005 onwards, Argentina under the two Kirchner presidents, fished for a great deal more than that amount on a yearly basis, to the point where levels were no longer commercial.
Mrs. Kirchner also wasn’t averse to allowing Illex squid seasons to open early; a decision which could negatively impact on the Falklands squid fishery.
Since the end of the SAFC the Falkland Islands Government has lobbied to reinstate meetings with Argentina over the shared marine resource. 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 some agreement on data sharing and management.”
The current Illex squid fishing season started on February 15 and ends on June 15. There are two loligo squid fishing seasons; February- April, and end of July until the end of September.
The Falklands Government has offered licenses to 105 jiggers for Illex squid, mostly Taiwanese and Korean flagged vessels. This level is stable compared with previous years. This year, the Argentine government launched its Illex fishing season in its waters on January 10, at the request of local fishing companies. The request was partially driven by the fact that vessels in international waters start the fishery much earlier.
However, a similar decision in the Falklands would not make sense, because Illex only tend to migrate south to Falklands’ waters towards the end of February. (Penguin News).