Argentine short fin squid (Illex argentinus) catches within the Argentine EEZ since the start of the season on February 1 are rather erratic and not very encouraging. Until last week only eight jiggers were operating in the area reports Pesca & Puertos website.
Sector sources said that jigger catches some days ranged from 5 to 12 tons per night, although the Puente Valdezextracted 25 tons in a single night. Currently, catches seem to have stabilized at 8 to 10 tons, while last year at this time they averaged 50 tons. In the first two months of last year, 42.202 tons of squid were landed, 6.2% above the same period in 2005, with 39.750 tons. The dip in catches has jiggers' owners in a bind since the low profitability of the fishery makes it difficult to meet fixed costs. Meanwhile, in Puerto Deseado, Santa Cruz province, 12 jiggers remain in port in conflict with unions over higher wages. United Maritime Workers Union, SOMU, representatives warned that no vessel or crew member will set sail until an agreement on wages is agreed and signed. "We were brought here from Corrientes [in the north of Argentina] 20 days ago and we want to set to sea now; they should have agreed on terms long before" complained two crew members in Puerto Deseado, who fear fishing companies might begin firing workers. Fishing companies representatives are waiting for the return of SOMU local delegates who left for Buenos Aires to negotiate with national authorities. "We hope the issue can be solved. It's impossible to pay more, we are already paying almost the very limit of the squid international price," said the manager of a squid fishing company. According to provisional data from Argentina's Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food Secretariat, between January first and 31 of 2007, 396.9 tons of squid were landed, compared to 8.425 landed during January 2006. (FIS/MP).-