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Argentina formally notifies Falklands' vessel arrest

Thursday, February 23rd 2006 - 21:00 UTC
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Argentina officially notified the British Embassy in Buenos Aires on Thursday of the capture, last Monday, of the Falklands' flagged vessel “John Cheek” allegedly fishing in Argentina's EEZ

"It's a notification, not a complaint, in which details of the events are described, that the vessel was in a position inside Argentine waters, with a registry which Argentina does not recognize, and therefore, illegally fishing", said Argentine Foreign Affairs sources in Buenos Aires.

The notification underlines, as was advanced by the acting Argentine Coast Guard station in Comodoro Rivadavia, that the fishing vessel was intercepted inside the Argentine EEZ in the following position: latitude 46 degrees 36.099 seconds South and longitude 60 degrees 56.962 seconds West.

This means according to the Argentine Coast Guard that the "John Cheek" was 198 nautical miles off the coast, next to Falkland Islands waters.

Argentina's official news agency Telam insists that the Coast Guard has recordings when the first contact with the "John Cheek", and from the exchange with Argentine officers it's the Spanish captain Jaime Cortizo who declares the position.

However captain Cortizo contacted by the Spanish media repeatedly stated the vessel was operating legally in international waters.

According to Argentine law, "John Cheek" could be fined between 33.333 and 333.333 US dollars for illegal fishing and her cargo, (100 tons of squid and hake) forfeited.

After having been boarded by an Argentine Coast Guard vessel last Monday, "John Cheek" was escorted to the port of Comodoro Rivadavia where she remains retained until her situation is cleared.

Since the captain collaborated with authorities and in no moment offered any resistance, the illegality allegedly committed by "John Cheek" is considered a "breach" and not a major fault or crime.

A top official from the Coast Guard General Ruben Alfredo Pedretti stated "we're not saying it was intentional but at the moment of arrest the vessel was in breach of Argentine legislation and therefore the current procedures and corresponding fines".

As part of the ongoing investigation of the incident Thursday morning Comodoro Rivadavia Coast Guard staff began questioning the captain and 31 crewmembers (Spanish, Chilean and Peruvian) of the "John Cheek".

Meantime in Mar del Plata the strong Argentine Fishing Industries Chamber, CAIPA, suggested that all fishing companies operating in the Falkland Islands and Argentine waters "should be expelled" from the country.

"Authorities must not allow these fishing companies to continue operating here?ignoring our sovereignty over the Islands", said Francisco Romano, president of CAIPA.

Among the Spanish companies mentioned fishing on "both" sides of the South Atlantic are Pescapuerta, Pereira, Freiremar and Pescamar.

Categories: Mercosur.

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