The Illex fishery has been a “no show” for Falkland Islands zones so far this year, confirmed Director of Fisheries John Barton.
Mr Barton told Mercopress “The fishery appeared to start normally on the high seas with some reasonable catches in the early part of the year. Catch rates were perhaps a bit reduced on the high seas compared to last year, but nothing too untoward.
“At present there does not appear to have been any great movement of Illex into Falkland Islands zones. Total catches are very low at c. 32 tonnes, and customers will inevitably be looking for refunds if there is no improvement. The previous record for poor performance of the fishery was 2004 when 1720 tonnes were caught, and the fishery closed early.”
It is not only the Falklands that are suffering from the non appearance of Illex, however, last week it was announced that Argentina’s Federal Fisheries Council had unanimously voted to close the Illex argentinus fishery south of parallell 46 degrees as a precautionary protection measure for the Southern Patagonian stock.
Falklands waters are normally noted for their squid production. Squid usually account for around 75% of annual catches of some 200,000 tonnes, and are destined for markets in Europe and the Far East. The balance of catches consist of various finfish species including Blue Whiting, Hake, Hoki and Toothfish.
Illex argentinus squid are fished principally by specialist squid jigging vessels from the Far East. (Loligo gahi squid are fished mainly by trawlers registered in the Falklands and owned jointly by Falklands and European companies.)
Revenue from the sale of fishing licenses has been as high as £20-25M. More recently revenue has declined to £12-15M per annum as a result of several very poor Illex seasons. As a consequence the Illex fishery has been closed early to protect stocks and a significant proportion of the license fees have been refunded. Squid stocks can be quite volatile due to their one year life cycle. Some £6M of fisheries income is spent each year on fisheries protection and research.
To ensure that conservation targets are achieved, fishing effort is controlled by limiting the number of vessels licensed to fish within the zone. Additional restrictions include closed areas and season to protect spawning squid and, in the case of finfish, a minimum mesh size is imposed. Catch data is collected from all vessels on a daily basis.
By Lisa Jonshon - SeAled PR - Stanley