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Fisheries News

Monday, December 9th 2002 - 20:00 UTC
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Headlines: EU preferential tariffs for Argentina; Red tide ban on Patagonian bivalves; Chile approves new fisheries law;Research vessel project for Patagonian shrimp fishery; Illegal fishing in southern Brazil; Industry and legislators locked in dispute; Russia seeks renewal of agreement; Shrimp exports face US anti-dumping campaign

EU preferential tariffs for Argentina

The European Union (EU) is granting a two-year extension to the preferential access of Argentine export products to European markets. Products under this scheme include fishery exports that risked losing a main market. When the EU announced that from next year Argentina would be excluded from the Generalised Scheme of Tariff Preferences (GSP), the Argentine government asked for an extension in view of the country's economic crisis. "It is extremely important to safeguard access of our exports to foreign markets to enable the economic recovery of our country," vice-chancellor Martín Redrado told La Nación. The European Commission finally agreed and submitted a proposal to the EU Council to allow preferential import tariffs for two more years - 2003 and 2004 - to the relief of exporters. "After a great effort, we managed to get an extension of a benefit that was granted to us a long time ago and that we were about to lose," said Chamber of Fishing Companies (Cepa) manager Oscar Fortunato. "The EU Council's estimation did not reflect the deterioration of Argentina's variables in the last year," he told La Capital. The government therefore requested a delay in applying new GSP regulations until data are available that accurately reflect the country's current economic situation. The extension will allow the sector to maintain a stable cash flow, which is vital for keeping businesses afloat, said Fortunato. "Businessmen will, however, continue to seek new agreements for tariff reductions on their exports". GSP allows developing countries to export products to Europe with tariff reductions that range from 15 to 100 per cent. Fishery sources say estimates these special access benefits are worth more than USD 600 million per year. (FIS/MP).-

Chile approves new fisheries law

Following months of political disputes the Chilean fisheries sector finally has a new Fishery and Aquaculture Bill that was passed last week by Congress, bringing relief and stability to the sector. The bill that fundamentally extends current transient rules for the following ten years, sparked disagreements between politicians, the industrial sector and coastal fishermen and besides envisages the development of an independent Fisheries Research Institute. Legislation also incorporates one of Chile's main political parties' proposal, --the Independent Democratic Union's (UDI)—that licence fees to be paid directly by the vessel instead of being based on a percentage of the quota. The bill, after a frustrating first rejection by Congress, was approved after much discussion and debate with an elaborate consensus reached at Senate level between Ministers of Economy and Home Office, Jorge Rodriguez and José Miguel Insulza, plus the deputies who had opposed a 10-year extension of the temporary fisheries law. In an interview with Estrella de Iquique, Deputy Fulvio Rossi, one of the promoters of the consensus, stressed the importance of the negotiations since they managed equilibrium between industrial and coastal fishery development. The legislation includes a 12 to 14 per cent increase in catch quotas, the implementation of satellite monitoring and a ban on opening new fishing grounds. Rossi is satisfied with the turnout - with 41 in favour and only three against - and said approval of the "brief" fishery law reconciles industrial, coastal and Government interests to promote growth. The Congressional debate lasted more than 10 hours and was witnessed by representatives of the parties involved, although a number of fisheries sector workers were asked to leave at one point because of they began protesting against the matter under discussion. (FIS/MP).-

Red tide ban on Patagonian bivalves

The ban on bivalve molluscs' catches in Patagonia continues as further red tide advances are reported along the coast. Agriculture, sanitary and local authorities are warning consumers to avoid bivalve molluscs and gastropods, unless they are properly certified, following several cases of food poisoning. The fishing ban has been in force since 18 November all along the coast of Santa Cruz, while in Chubut a ban was announced on mollusc and Patagonian scallop (Aequipecten tehuelchus) for catches in San Matías Gulf. Health authorities have warned consumers to avoid these species since levels of diarrheic shellfish poisoning (DSP) in molluscs are considered toxic for human consumption. They recommend eating products industrialized before the November ban and checking that products have proper certification. Santa Cruz Public Health Minister Rosa Bucarey told FIS.com that the ban would remain in force until the latest reports on mollusc samples are received. She said analyses of samples from Santa Cruz were being performed in Chubut labs and the results on levels of the lipid toxin would be available very shortly. Jorge Layana of Rio Gallego's Food Health Department in Santa Cruz warned that molluscs feed on marine plankton which is currently contaminated with a toxin causing severe diarrheic poisoning and dehydration in humans. Mr. Layana stressed that the red tide origin is not a virus, bacteria or fungus, and it doesn't appear as a consequence of exposing shellfish to the sun, reports La Opinión Austral. The disease is spread by bivalve molluscs such as mussels, clams, cockles, oysters, scallops and Magellan mussels. (FIS/MP).-

Research vessel project for Patagonian shrimp fishery

Companies operating in the San Jorge Gulf shrimp fishery in Argentine Patagonia are joining efforts to jointly help with the funding of a research vessel to monitor development and conservation in the area. The initiative was prompted after the Argentine federal government announced it was cancelling shrimp research cruises because of lack of funding. At last month's Sustainable Shrimp Fisheries seminar the Patagonia Shrimp Chamber (Calapa), which represents the industry's companies' requested provincial fisheries authorities to consider buying or chartering a fully equipped research vessel to carry out studies exclusively in Patagonian shrimp fishing grounds. Business interests estimate that scientific research in the area could have an annual cost of 300,000 US dollars, "a significant sum, but not a large sum if compared with the shrimp industry turnover and the fisheries potential". Dario Baroli, Calapa's secretary in an interview with FIS.com said: "Research is vital for the sustainable development of shrimp fishery". Although all parties involved agree that fluctuations in the fishery are inherent to the shrimp's biological cycle, scientists from Argentina's National Fisheries Research and Development Institute, (Inidep) believe that environmental factors also have an influence in the reproduction and development of shrimp and consequently fishing volumes. (FIS/MP).-

Illegal fishing in southern Brazil

Coastal fishermen and scientists are demanding stricter controls along Paraná's coast in the south of Brazil, to curb "irregularities" in the operations of industrial fishing vessels from Santa Catarina and Sao Paulo which are operating in the area. Fishermen, backed by researchers and environmentalists, claim the activities of the industrial sector are "seriously affecting" the local coastal sector. "The state's territorial waters are becoming a lawless sea," fishermen told the Brazilian fisheries publication Mercado da Pesca. Apparently Santa Catarina's fishing vessels are the most harmful since they are equipped with sonar equipment that easily detects shoals and during last July an only trawler catching grey mullet (Mugil brasiliensis), managed 130 tonnes. Paraná scientists and environmentalists also claim these vessels use underwater detonations that kill adult specimens and fingerlings. Paraná's coastal fishermen state that these "modern pirates" are able to get away with it because the Brazilian Environment Institute (Ibama), responsible for coast control, has a team of only 10 people to patrol 100 kilometres of coast. "It is difficult to catch them even though we carry out frequent patrols," said Paulo Roberto Matoso Ditter, Ibama's control manager. Paraná's Fishermen's Association leader Rubens Marcelino da Veiga complains that a large part of the Santa Catarina industrial fishing fleet's revenue originates in catches along the coast of Paraná. Apparently Itajaí, Santa Catarina's main fishing port is home of "this pirate fleet". According to the latest statistics, Santa Catarina represents 20% of Brazil's fishing industry followed by Sao Paulo with 18% and Rio Grande do Sul 9%. (FIS/MP).-

Industry and legislators locked in dispute

A further attempt to overcome the controversy over fee increases in fishing licences in the Gulf of San Jorge in Argentine Patagonia has been unable to solve the dispute. During the Gulf of San Jorge First Fisheries Forum, businessmen, provincial legislators and representatives from the governments of Chubut and Santa Cruz, which have jointly managed fishery resources in the Gulf of San Jorge since 1988, could not unlock the dispute that involves a "dramatic 26 times increase in the cost of fishing permits". "This forum did not add anything new and no resolutions were reached. It was just another meeting between the various interests in the Gulf fishery", Patagonia Shrimp Chamber (Calapa) manager Enrique Mizrahi told FIS.com, adding that "there's no major problem with provincial Executives, but the greatest hurdle lies with the Legislature". However Chubut legislators - Deputies Roberto Risso and Ismael Retuerto - defended the increase and denied that the new bill sets a 26-fold jump in fishing licences, "at the most a 5.4-fold increase if 80% of catches are landed in Chubut ports", reports Crónica. Tax rebates and reimbursements on exports represent half of that cost, said Retuerto. "The country generously contributes with these companies' incomes but they refuse to pay the price of fishing permits," he added. But Mario Ordiales, head of the Fishing Industries Chamber (Capip), said that reimbursements were not aimed specifically at fishing companies and were introduced some time ago. "Yes they play an important part in the region's development, but they are collected by anyone exporting from Patagonian ports". Mr. Ordiales also argued that costs in the San Jorge Gulf area are higher, "for example fuel, vessels which load diesel here pay much more than vessels in Mar del Plata". (FIS/MP).

Russia seeks renewal of agreement

A Russian business delegation in Peru is seeking to renew a fisheries agreement to exploit anchovy for fishmeal, horse mackerel and common mackerel. The delegation is headed by Commerce and Economic Development vice-minister Roald F. Piskoppel and includes representatives from the country's Chamber of Commerce and from different industries, in particular fisheries, oil, mining, energy and agribusiness. In an interview with Gestión newspaper, Russian minister Piskoppel said: "The goal is to analyse trade policies and to emphasize in the Andean countries that in Russia we also have a market economy as the US and the European Union". This is the second time in ten years that such a large Russian business delegation has visited Peru to discuss fisheries, trade opportunities and reinforce commercial ties between the two countries. For many years Russia had strong trade and political ties with Peru and was a main supplier of equipment, machinery, technology and in defence affairs. (FIS/MP).-

EC to overhaul fishery agreements

The European Commission (EC) is planning to overhaul fishing arrangements with developing countries, the European Information Service (EIS) reported last week. According to the EIS, the plan is to promote "partnerships" with developing countries for ensuing sustainable fishing. The current system of "access agreements", under which the EU executive gives poorer states money to allow European fishing vessels into its waters, is to be reviewed, the EIS said. Reportedly, the EC in a draft document also expressed an intention to adopt strict measures to conserve fish stocks in EU waters, in accordance with the EU's international commitment to preserve fish stocks following this summer's World Sustainable Development Summit in Johannesburg. "The notion of a partnership agreement in the fisheries sector must be the starting point of the Common Fisheries Policy's external axis to create sustainable fishing outside Community waters," said the draft paper. The EIS said the new paper drafted by the EC is due to be approved by the EU Fisheries Council later this month. (FIS/MP).-

Shrimp exports face US anti-dumping campaign

Eight United States shrimp companies of the Southern Shrimp Alliance are considering legal action to protect their products against imports from Brazil and a further 14 Latin American countries, according to a Brazilian publication. The Southern Shrimp Alliance was formed at the end of October principally to combat cheap shrimp imports and covers North and South Carolina states, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. However experts warn that for an anti-dumping claim to be successful, proof is needed that exporters are selling to the US at prices below production cost, at a value that damages local producers. But the main obstacle to success in this case is the Alliance's reluctance to foot the USD 7.5 million bill for the necessary legal and consultancy services, reports Crónica da Pesca. To finance the lawsuit, the Alliance has launched a fund-raising campaign in coastal cities that depend on shrimp fishing, although producers know that filing an anti-dumping action before the US International Trade Commission is a lengthy process that often leads to ambiguous results. "It is an unknown territory for industry associations which are not accustomed to deal with regulatory matters or the court system," said Jerry Schill, president of North Carolina's Fishery Association. (FIS/MP).-

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