The Association of Argentine Fishing Industry Chambers has sent an urgent open letter to president Alberto Fernandez complaining about the illegal activity of almost a hundred foreign jiggers in the country's EEZ.
Without any delay, we expect the necessary operational mechanisms are put in place for a greater and standing control and patrolling of the national maritime spaces, applying the most severe sanctions to any offender vessel, reads the letter.
Apparently last week Argentine jiggers came across a huge number of foreign vessels, mainly Chinese, illegally operating in Argentina's Exclusive Economic Zone.
Estimates of a hundred illegal vessels in the EEZ were reported to the Argentine Coast Guard and government authorities. The modus operandi is very simple and obvious.
During the day the jiggers wait along mile 201, but when night falls, and with the lack of patrolling and control, they penetrate Argentine waters, further and further as there are no impediments. It is believed this is a good season and each of the Chinese jiggers are catching some 40 to 50 tons of squid per night.
Apparently they operate in close coordination, all of them with their AIS, automatic identification systems off, and a few in protection formation with lights off, which can also act aggressively if necessary. Behind the protective arch the others catch and catch. If with their radars any patrols are seeing to be approaching, they rapidly withdraw a few miles back to mile 201.
This according to the reports from the captains and crews of the Argentine trawlers and jiggers operating in the zone.
The Argentine fishing industry chambers not only complain about the lack of proper patrolling but also that the Chinese fleet receives bunkering and supplies in the high seas, besides the fact that contrary to what happens in Argentina, fuel and vessel costs are highly subsidized.
This is clearly a disloyal competition and allows the Chinese fleet to manage dumping prices for their catches.
Given the number of illegal vessels and their average daily catch, the Argentine chambers complain that foreign jiggers most probably are taking more squid than the local fleet and their season catch.
With Argentina and all its resources involved in containing the pandemic, a permanent patrolling is hard to see. Besides there might also be political reasons since Beijing has been supplying Argentina with medical equipment to fight the coronavirus, and again could end being a lender of last resort to the pre defaulted president Fernandez administration.