A drop in hake catches, international prices coupled with problems arising from the several weeks strike in Mar del Plata (Buenos Aires province), when workers blocked access to port facilities protesting low salaries, have all had an impact on Argentina's fisheries industry.
According to Mar del Plata's La Capital all these factors together with the energy shortages in Argentina which forced a reduction in production at several factories have contributed to increase costs and lower revenue leading the industry into a difficult situation and uncertain future. The sector is also concerned because the fisheries sector does not foresee any official assistance to help mitigate possible conflicts given the lack of sufficient fish. Argentina's National Sub Secretariat of Fishery and Aquaculture reported that between January 11 and August 9, this year, common hake (Merluccius hubbsi) landings in Argentine ports totaled 170,036.6 tons. Compared to the same period a year ago this represents a 14% drop: 189.071 tons in 2006 to 162.546 tonnes in 2007. Of the total hake catch this year to August 9, landings in Mar del Plata equaled 57% (97.160,1 tons); Puerto Madryn (Chubut) 29.913,2 tons and Comodoro Rivadavia (Chubut), 15.318,2 tons. When activities at Mar del Plata terminal came to a stand still, the manager of the Chamber of Deep Sea Vessel Owners, Dario Socrate, warned that there was a lack of raw material for skinning at the plants. "If we had had sufficient fish, I am not so sure if the strike would not have set off in the way that it did" he remarked. According to Mr Socrate this year's season will close with a smaller volume than 2006, nearly 80,000 tonnes less, and he predicts this is going to complicate matters even further; possibly generating new conflicts. At the beginning of the month, the Argentine government set up new management measures for common hake, which include changes in catch quotas and ban periods. According to fishery authorities, they target a sustainable fishery, the conservation of the resource, sustained global operations for the fleet and sustainable job positions. Meanwhile Argentina' National Fisheries Research and Development Institute, INIDEP, announced this week the start of a new hake (Merluccius hubbsi) research campaign with scientific vessel Capitan Oca Balda which set sail from Mar del Plata. The survey will cover the area that extends south of parallel 41Ãâ€šÃ‚Âº S, up to parallel 48Ãâ€šÃ‚Âº S and should be executed in two 25-day phases, covering a depth of 50 to 200 meters. The campaign's target is an estimate of the total biomass and total species abundance classified by age, and to help corroborate the limits of the area banned for the catch of juveniles. Data obtained from the survey should help assess the resource's health conditions since for the past months it has shown negative signs mainly due to failed recruitments and a reduced reproductive biomass. (FIS/MP).-