The Falkland Islands government and local industry have given reassurances following cases of Covid-19 identified on Loligo fishing ships due to the Falklands from Galicia. Penguin News investigated reports of positive cases on vessels bound for the Islands and asked for comment from FIG, who responded in writing:
Is FIG aware of how many vessels have Covid-19, and what number of cases?
Currently five vessels are already sailing to the Falkland Islands and the rest are still in port waiting for confirmation that they have no positive cases and can depart. Spanish authorities do not permit vessels to leave port with positive cases on board. FIG is in contact with the fishing companies who each have a Covid-19 handling plan and protocols to deal with precisely this situation.
What policy is government taking for the vessels in regards to quarantine for vessels which have Covid?
Vessels cannot depart their home port without first being cleared for Covid-19, this means that ‘clean’ vessels arrive to the Falkland Islands.
Are any of the vessels which have crew with the virus supposed to be undertaking research cruises in the coming season, if so what effects may this have on the season?
There are two research cruises planned for February and at this stage we have not been informed of any changes resulting from the situation in Galicia.
If the season is delayed is there a possibility of it being extended, or companies being refunded, in recompense for loss of earning?
The commercial season does not begin until 24 February and the usual sailing time from Vigo is 21-23 days, therefore it is too early to estimate whether or not the season will be subject to delays. However, were this to be the case, FIG would consider the most viable options for supporting the sector.
Will this impact on the Fisheries Observer programme and the environmental stability of the fishery?
fishery as a result of the situation in Galicia. The Fisheries Department has a confirmed approach to managing the programme which is based on the government’s overarching escalation plan:
Should a case of Covid-19 develop while a vessel is in Falkland waters what level of obligation will FIG have to the vessel for treatment?
In this unlikely scenario, FIG would of course offer support to the affected vessel and would manage this risk through its existing pandemic management plan – namely, the use of self-isolation and regular testing. Should an individual require hospital treatment, then the KEMH would utilize its hot ward to provide this care, in the same way that it would for anyone else experiencing serious illness as a result of Covid-19.
Reports in Spain
Spanish online paper La Voz De Galicia stated, “the boats with contagions are the Beagle, the Venturer and the Falcon... Some of these vessels have already set sail,” and that “The Rampesca company had contagions on the Monteferro ship, which this week left Marín for the Falklands. As for Lafonia: Sil and New Polar have been infected. In the first of them, more than a dozen cases.”
Alex Reid of Seaview Ltd, who own some of the vessels which were reported to have cases, said that “I think it has been a little bit exaggerated in the [Spanish] press... The vessels have no cases of Covid on board.” He continued: “We have some Covid cases amongst the Peruvian crew, we don’t know exactly where those Covid cases came from but we presume from the travel from Peru to Spain. Our crew have been quarantined in Spain, for more than two weeks, in fact.”
Asked about what procedures are in place for if there is a positive test at sea Mr Reid said, “It is an unlikely event, and that would depend on where the vessel is at the time and also the symptoms, but we have our own procedures in place in order to deal with that. I’m not going to go into detail but suffice to say that they are agreed with the fisheries department and they’re very protective in order to make sure that whatever happens, we do not bring Covid into the Falklands. Which is what everybody is concerned about.”
When asked about whether he saw a delay in the season as likely Mr Reid said that “it’s early days, we certainly are very comfortable with the fact that we’re going to be able to leave on time and start fishing on the first day of the season, but it doesn’t just depend on our vessels.” He continued, “It depends on the observers as well...
It depends on them arriving and quarantining here in Stanley for 14 days before boarding vessels so we don’t live in the same world we did a year and a half ago.”
Mr Reid stated that “people need to understand that the industry are doing whatever we can to make sure that COVID is kept off the vessels. We’ve done this in 2020 for both seasons, we’re going to do it for 2021 certainly for the first season and then we’ll see what happens in the second.
”We’re working very hard in conjunction with the government in order to make sure that our plans align with their plans.” Mr Reid concluded.
FIG stated, in addition to responses to questions: “FIG has been working closely with FIFCA and the fishing companies to understand the extent of positive Covid-19 test results among vessels and crew currently in Spain.
While some companies have reported positive cases, each has a set of Covid-19 policies and protocols in place to manage the situation.”
“All vessels are required to make health declarations to Customs and Immigration prior to arrival in Stanley and after 21-23 days spent sailing from Vigo.”