The decrease in common hake (Merluccius hubbsi) landings in the port of Mar del Plata, Argentina, is generating unease and concern among the owners of various processing plants because of the lack of sufficient fish.
Provisional data released by Argentine national fisheries authorities show that in the first quarter of this year, almost 67.000 tons of hake have been landed, which is 7.000 tonnes less than in the same period a year ago. According to Oscar Fortunato, Province of Buenos Aires Fisheries Deputy Secretary the matter rests on the fact that "possibly" there's an excess of processing plants compared to the volume of available resource. "When analysing 2007 catches, it seems quite similar to previous years. I question whether too much is being invested in processing plants. It would be interesting to investigate that," said the official. "Every time a new plant opens it should be certain of raw material deliveries, because it is easy to set up and then say, 'OK, now send me the raw material'. This is not a logical way to work", he emphasized. Following the melt down of the Argentine economy five years ago the fishery industry began investing heavily expanding existing plants and opening new plants for cutting and filleting fish, especially common hake, reports La Capital But added to the increased processing capacity are the reduced hake catch quotas established by government for this season. Although the inventory of processing plants in Mar del Plata has not been updates, fisheries authorities believe the number is in the range of 200 authorised plants, of which 40 are salting plants and the rest process fresh fish. However City Hall delegate at the Mar del Plata port terminal, Norberto Perez, argues the number of processing plants has not increased much in the past few years. On the contrary his office has closed a few plants in the last fifteen months. But in spite of these comments industry sources insist that the number of "new and refurbished plants" keeps increasing. Fisheries official Fortunato sidesteps the controversy and prefers to focus on landings: it's crucial to immediately decrease juvenile catches if the resource is to be conserved. New ban areas are being targeted, among them north of the San Jorge Gulf, with a high concentration of juveniles, could very well be "a step forward in the right direction". (FIS/MP).-