The comments by Milko Schvartzman on the Falkland’s fishery in FIS on 2 June 2015, are incorrect and uninformed in many areas. We reject the inference that the Falkland Islands Government promotes a fisheries industry based on modern-day slavery and on piracy. The Falkland Islands have a long history of responsible environmental stewardship, and we pride ourselves on protecting and safeguarding our unique environment and the natural resources therein.
The Falkland Islands Government has responsibility for issuing licenses and regulating the fishery, and all vessels are inspected to ensure that they meet flag state standards and have the requisite life-saving appliances. We also have a network of fisheries observers, and a proportion of vessels will have observers onboard during the fisheries season. There is only a small fleet (18) of Falkland flagged fishing vessels. These all operate to high standards as British vessels. The Falklands put a lot of resources into regulating fisheries in Falkland waters and ensuring that fisheries are managed on a sustainable basis. The fishery has operated well since it started in 1987, and the fact that the fishery has been successful over that period demonstrates the effectiveness of conservation and management measures.
There have been, sadly, cases where crewmen have left their vessels, but in these cases it is often because they are homesick, or do not like the nature of the work they undertake. There are very few cases of maltreatment of crew and in those circumstances the perpetrators should be prosecuted, and the Falkland Islands Government has prosecuted perpetrators in the past. The Falkland Islands Government would also take action to revoke vessels’ licenses in such a situation.
That is not to say that the conditions and terms of employment for some fishermen do not require improvement. There are a number of international conventions and agreements which address these issues. They have not all been adopted, implemented and promoted to the extent that they could be. Full adoption and implementation by the main fishing countries would provide many of the essential safeguards for fishermen. In many cases fishermen in the Falkland’s fisheries return year after year. The Oyang vessels referred to are operating in the Southwest Atlantic. They are not licensed to fish in Falkland Island waters, although they have used port services including medical facilities.
There is no doubt that the Southwest Atlantic would benefit from some regional fisheries management organization. The Falkland Islands has always been ready to participate in such a body and has promoted the concept. Until 2005, there was bilateral fisheries co-operation between Argentina and the United Kingdom and involving the Falkland Islands, which facilitated research, exchanged data and coordinated management of stocks. This was particularly relevant to the Illex squid resource which is the biggest fishery and largest marine living resource in the Southwest Atlantic. Argentina unilaterally withdrew from that process to the detriment of both Falklands and Argentine fisheries. Had Argentina continued to participate in the South Atlantic Fisheries Commission that would have been the best prospect of developing a regional fisheries management organization; multilateral arrangements for the high seas were in the terms of reference.
Director of National Resources