“Hidden” fishing boats could invade Argentinian waters
A new report released by the environmental NGO Oceana reveals that hundreds of foreign fishing vessels, mostly Chinese, exploit the waters off Argentina and often disappear from AIS tracking. These deep-sea fishing vessels primarily target bluefin squid, which are essential to support other commercial and recreational fisheries such as tuna and swordfish.
The report analyzed fishing activity along the edge of Argentina’s South Atlantic EEZ from January 2018 to April 2021. Automatic Identification System (AIS) data from Global Fishing Watch – an organization independent nonprofit founded by Oceana in partnership with Google and Skytruth – were used as the basis for the tracking.
On the fishing activity visible in the Global Fishing Watch database, Oceana documented more than 800 foreign vessels totaling more than 900,000 hours of alleged fishing. 69 percent of this fishing activity was carried out by more than 400 Chinese vessels. Korean, Spanish and Taiwanese vessels accounted for 26 percent of the fishing activity, with nearly 200 vessels totaling 251,000 hours. In comparison, Argentinian fishing vessels completed 9,269 hours of visible fishing in the study area with around 145 vessels – less than 1 percent of the total.
“Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing threatens the health of the oceans. Ships that disappear along the edge of Argentina’s national waters could plunder its waters illegally, ”said Beth Lowell, deputy vice president of US campaigns for Oceana.
About 6,000 outage events – instances where AIS transmissions were not broadcast for more than 24 hours – were documented in the study. Cumulatively, these ships were invisible for over 600,000 hours, potentially hiding their locations to disguise illegal activity.
Of the vessels with AIS deficiencies, 31% visited the port of Montevideo, Uruguay, at the end of their voyage. The port is an important transshipment center for fishing vessels in the South Atlantic region.
“Our oceans need protection, not reckless fishing by China and other distant water fleets. Fishing on this scale, under the radar, and disregarding laws and sustainability can have detrimental impacts on entire ecosystems, as well as the people and economies that depend on them, ”said Dr Marla Valentine, responsible for Oceana’s illegal fishing and transparency campaign. .
Argentina has a vibrant commercial fishing industry, with an estimated economic output of $ 2.7 billion, which represents 3.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. The main fisheries exploited by the industry include shortfin squid, hake, red shrimp and pomegranate, which account for 75 percent of the country’s total catch.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.