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Argentine Navy to control 200 miles plus high seas fisheries

Saturday, December 8th 2007 - 20:00 UTC
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Argentina authorized sea and air tracking of illegal fishing outside the country's Economic Exclusive Zone, in the 200 miles plus area of international waters and will eventually give notice to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) of transgressors, according to the Buenos Aires press.

The "International action plan to prevent, discourage and eliminate illegal, undeclared and unregulated fishing" was decided by Argentina's Fisheries Department last Thursday following consultations with the Foreign Affairs ministry with the purpose of putting an end to "predatory catches in the high seas". In practical terms this means the Argentine Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force which normally patrol the EEZ are now authorized to control fishing in the 200 miles plus area, but can't proceed to arrest or capture alleged poachers. If Argentina, based on evidence collected by Argentine services, can prove before FAO that fishing vessels from a certain company operating in the 200 miles plus area did so under illegal, undeclared or unregulated conditions, FAO country members would eventually ban access of that produce to their domestic markets. The decision with support from Argentina's Fisheries Federal Council "pretends to unify in an only document all measures and steps applicable by Argentine authorities both in jurisdictional and international waters with the purpose of preventing, discouraging and eliminating illegal fishing". Since 2006 the Argentine Navy and Coast Guard have captured 15 vessels illegally fishing in the country's EEZ, but some managed to escape into the 200 miles plus area. An integrated system for control of fishing activities, SICAP, will centralize operations, under the Fisheries Department, and will be responsible for ordering "hot pursuit" into the 200 miles plus area "whenever considered necessary". Gerardo Nieto, Fisheries Department Secretary is quoted saying that the Argentine initiative is in the framework of FAO agreements to secure long-term sustainable fisheries and countries such as Canada, Spain and New Zealand are already implementing plans. The international framework for such actions includes the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, among others. Nieto recalled that much has been advanced since the high seas conflict in the mid nineties when Canadian Coast Guard patrols arrested Spanish vessels outside the Canadian EEZ, and that in the South Atlantic one of the worst transgressors is Taiwan with which Argentina has no diplomatic relations. Taiwan and Spain are essentially fishing countries but have been forced to move to other fisheries as theirs have been depleted. Nieto admitted that the real test of this week's decision will take place next February when the official opening of the squid season in the South Atlantic. Squid straddles all along the South Atlantic as high north as Uruguay and in and out the 200 miles EEZ both of Argentina and the Falklands. Regarding the Falklands 200 miles EEZ and the 25 year fishing licences awarded by the Islands government, Nieto adopted a pragmatic attitude. "There's an ongoing sovereignty discussion with Britain over the disputed waters and an umbrella dating back to 1991. We will follow all decisions from our Foreign Affairs ministry". Nieto finally revealed that the strongest pressure on resources happens to the north of the intersection of the Argentine EEZ and "waters under London's control" where every season approximately 100 jigger vessels turn out to poach squid. "Night air photos from Navy planes show hundreds of lights on the sea, similar to any Argentine city at night. I think this plan is a significant step to combat illegal fishing which has caused serious risks and in some cases the virtual exhaustion of resources in many world fisheries. We trust it will be effective", concluded Nieto.

Categories: Fisheries, Argentina.

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