Disappointment broke out in the Falkland Islands among fishing companies over the latest licensing and securities measures, the local weekly Penguin News reported Friday.
James Wallace, CEO of Fortuna Ltd. -one of the Islands' leading companies- has been particularly critical of the timing for the announcement of measures which include a 10% increase in licenses to catch Illex squid.
The Falkland Islands Government (FIG) has also expanded the number of applicants for licenses in 2022, increased transshipment fees by 10%, and plans to charge a flat £ 1,000 application fee.
Executive Council Rapporteur, MLA Roger Spink has written that “the improvements made to the entire process and criteria were made in a way both to stimulate competition and to raise safety standards on boats and ships.”
But Wallace has suggested that his business could be adversely affected, and that safety standards could be compromised. He added that fishing boat owners were frustrated by the timing of the announcement of the increased cost of fishing licenses in addition to the other increases announced.
“The catches in 2021 were good but in the previous five seasons they were poor. Ship owners have invested a lot, also during this period, in terms of safety improvements related to the introduction of inspections by port authorities,” said Wallace.
The global pandemic continues to limit markets and trade in general, and there is a general increase in costs as well as the challenges of hiring crews. We believe that by increasing licenses, and introducing new license costs, they send the wrong message to foreign partners who have participated faithfully in a highly variable fishery over time for years, and have finally achieved a good year after five consecutive mediocre ones, he added.
“Foreign ship owners who invest their assets to meet standards that are often unfamiliar to them place great trust in the way we conduct our affairs. Openly encouraging your Falklands partners to get out of business with each other, expanding application facilities, does not translate into a good message and in our view risks eroding the security progress we have all made thus far, he went on.
Wallace also commented on Fortuna's recent lawsuit against the FIG regarding the award of licenses in 2021. The result was a memorandum of understanding requiring clear consultation on general licensing policies and assessment. In compliance with the court order, the FIG scheduled a meeting with Fortuna on September 10. And our decision to request a judicial review of the Illex squid licensing process was not taken lightly by the government.
We are confident that a successful review of the agreement will help improve the transparency of the process in the future and ensure that local partners and vessel owners receive the recognition they deserve for their achievements and years of commitment to the Falklands.
However, the document approved by the Executive Council argued that despite the challenges of the global pandemic and the lower market prices when compared to 2019 and 2020, the significant increase in the volume of catches, (by almost 300%), should surely allow to accommodate the moderate increase (of licenses). At the same time, discounts in the vicinity of 13% are also very likely to apply to all applicants.
For the 2021 season, fishing licenses were awarded to 105 jiggers and one trawler, chosen from among 128 jiggers and one trawler. The report details that the numbers were reduced from 125 to 105 after a series of poor catches, and with the objective initially determined by the number of applicants rather than any clear policy of the Government of the Islands in this regard, although this was adjusted correspondingly later.
The islands' fishing industry has requested that the numbers in the new policy be reconsidered. But the government has denied the request, arguing that until there is robust information that can demonstrate a very clear case for increasing the number of licenses, the precautionary principle will be continued and the number of licenses will remain as is.
The report also argues that this is in line with the health and safety of the crews, highlighting two cases of men on board in which the ship in question did not contact the Control Office for more than twelve hours.
This was particularly stressful when in one of these incidents, the A400 was actually no more than fifteen minutes' navigation from the scene of the incident. The report also refers to recent revelations made by the Court Coroner.
We had two deaths related to the well-being of the crew that have been investigated by the coroner, and the cause of death turned out to be Tuberculosis and it is clear in said report, together with the evidence provided by the CMO, that these deaths could very well have been easily avoidable. Actions have been taken by both the Government of the Islands and the local partners involved in the incidents to deploy an early warning system for medical matters related to the crews of the fishing vessels. (Penguin News)