Image: TN / FIS
Danger of predation: the hidden maneuver that China devised to take over fishing in the Argentine sea
Thursday, March 30, 2023, 01:00 (GMT + 9)
The following is an excerpt from an article published by TN:
The jigging vessels have been installed for a long time at the limit of the local exclusive economic zone, in Patagonia. However, for 10 years Beijing has bought Argentine companies and kept the internal business.
At mile 200 of the Argentine sea, just where the exclusive economic zone of Argentina ends, an intense light momentarily blinds those who approach by boat at night. When your eyes adjust, what you see are thousands of lamps that between 500 and 600 foreign ships hold over the water.
They are jigging boats that are dedicated to catching illex squid, a species that, during the southern hemisphere summer, abounds in the Patagonian sea. The sides of the ships are smeared with a brown, slimy substance. It is the ink of millions of squids that are preyed on in that ecosystem every day. On a good night of fishing, catches can be up to 50 tons.
Fishing hours. The Asian jiggers and the Spanish trawling fleet account for 90% of the fishing activity at the limit of the exclusive economic zone of Argentina. Source: Oceana / TN
According to data from the NGO Oceana, 70% of the fishing time in the area belongs to Chinese vessels. The rest is divided between South Korea, Taiwan and Spanish or Portuguese trawlers. Argentina barely covers between 1 and 3% of the fishing hours.
By international law, any activity that occurs beyond mile 200 is completely unregulated. They are international free fishing waters. Argentina can only act if the vessels cross into the local exclusive economic zone, where only Argentine-flagged vessels can fish. However, the ecosystem does not recognize borders.
The depredation at mile 200 has accumulated complaints for years, ranging from slavery conditions on top of boats and illegal fishing to the capture of protected species.
However, according to the analysis of official documents and exclusive interviews, TN verified that in the last 10 years Chinese companies have been entering the country through the purchase of local fishing companies. That is to say that today, those who fish irregularly outside the exclusive economic zone also do so inside with foreign crews, their own boats, but under the Argentine flag.
Where do the floating lights come from?
Every year, between November and May, the large foreign fishing fleet lands in the same place: the Blue Hole. Just outside the Argentine exclusive economic zone, this marine area facing the Gulf of San Jorge, between Chubut and Santa Cruz, is where species such as squid, hake and toothfish feed.
Despite its biological and ecosystem richness, the area does not have any type of international or local protection. And since they are international waters, Argentina has no interference in that activity.
Hundreds of foreign ships 'turn off' their Automatic Identification Systems (AIS). Fishing vessels detected in Argentine waters between January 2018 and April 2021, by country of origin. Source: Oceana / TN
Two types of boats fish in the area: jigs (which pull squid with the help of powerful lights) and trawlers (which pass their nets along the seabed to catch hake).
According to data from the Global Fishing Watch organization, in 2017 jiggers fished 130,789 hours during the peak season for squid from the Blue Hole. In 2022, five years later, that number reached 354,367. Almost triple.
Hundreds of ships with their powerful lamps looting the ocean without control. The intensity of the activity is such that the lights of the ships are captured by satellites from space. (continues...)
Author: Agustina López | Read the full article by clicking the link here (only available in Spanish)