Argentina is planning the incorporation of Chinese jiggers to catch Illex squid next season, a decision rejected by the local fishing chambers but which according to the Buenos Aires financial media is linked to the sovereignty dispute over the Falkland Islands and surrounding waters.
The Argentine Federal Fisheries Council approved resolution 7 opening a registry for 20 additional jiggers, 10 of them from China, apparently part of the June deal between Premier Wen Jiabao and Cristina Fernandez that also contemplates the possibility of supplying, servicing and unloading catches in Patagonian ports.
Local chambers have protested the initiative since they feel affected given the insufficient catches to face rising costs, but at the same time officials from the Cristina Fernandez administration have argued that it is part of the official Argentine policy in the Falklands/Malvinas dispute and because Beijing has no jiggers operating with Falklands’ licenses.
Resolution number 7 contemplates the incorporation of the Chinese flagged vessels to Argentina’s fleet plus the processing of catches in Patagonia plants and some labour commitments.
“The incorporation of another 20 jiggers to the 70 which already make up the Argentine fleet should have an impact on the ‘other side’” according to the press reports in clear reference to the Falklands.
But the same media comments that similar experiences with previous Argentine administrations did not have the effect expected, much less improve Argentina’ negotiations capacity to recover sovereignty over the Falklands, not even “the framework deals with Russia and Bulgaria at the time of President Raul Alfonsin, 1983/1989; or the chartering of jiggers promoted under the government of President Carlos Menem (1989/1999)”.
Nestor Bustamante, Deputy Fisheries department head reportedly told the local squid chambers that Argentina is “interested in a greater geopolitical presence at mile 201 plus, adjacent to the EEZ, an experiment that was sponsored at the beginning of this year.
Basically Argentine flagged or licensed vessels were authorized to begin operations at 201 plus before the official season started February first. However only nine registered and some even requested incentives because operating at such distance demands logistic support and increases costs.
The official Illex season normally extends from February until August 31, however this year following on INIDEP (the Argentine Fisheries Research Institute) recommendations for the preservation of a minimum biomass for the following season, June’s Technical Report 18/12 ended the season in July, when a reported 92.332 tons of squid had been unloaded in Argentine ports both by jiggers and as by-catches of the trawlers.
Allegedly this season according to Argentine sources adjacent to EEZ, mile 201 plus, an estimated 120 jiggers were operating with a total catch of 65.000 tons to which must be added “another 100 in waters under the control and licensing of the Falklands with catches of 84.211 tons.
However the Argentine Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food and INIDEP do not have sufficient data to confirm the above volumes, since weekly reports are needed of fishing in international waters and in the Falklands.
But the Argentine Navy has only one corvette out of three deployed in the area next to the Falklands plus sporadic air patrols and any help that can be provided by the Coast Guard, which supposedly limits the monitoring of the area.
Since the Kirchner couple arrived in Government House back in 2003, the original plan was for the construction of three multipurpose oceanic patrols for which the Chileans were invited since they have the yards for such objective. Chile already has two of these vessels and in mid July began to build a third one.