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Patagonian toothfish at a Whole Foods supermarket (AP Photo/Joshua Goodman)

Patagonian toothfish: US-UK diplomatic friction over fishing off the Falkland's

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Friday, June 24, 2022, 16:00 (GMT + 9)

The following is an excerpt from an article published by Associated Press:

MIAMI (AP) — It's one of the most expensive fish in the world. It sells for $32 a pound (450 grams) in Whole Foods supermarkets across the United States and is served in the finest restaurants.

However, Russia's obstruction of efforts to protect the species and its refusal to accept limits on fishing for Patagonian toothfish in a protected area off Patagonia has sparked a fishing dispute in that corner of the world that is causing friction between two old allies, the United States and the United Kingdom.

The previously unrevealed diplomatic dispute intensified when Britain granted licenses this year to fish for toothfish off South Georgia, a remote, uninhabited, UK-controlled island some 1,400 kilometers east of the Falkland Islands.

As a result, for the first time since governments banded together 40 years ago to protect marine life near the South Pole, deep-sea fishing for this sharp-toothed fish is taking place this season with no limits on the amount that can be caught. can catch that is usually set by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, or CCAMLR.

Photo: Argos Froyanes

This overnight changed the dynamics of one of the best managed fishing areas in the world. A sea territory the size of France has become lawless, at least in the eyes of US officials, who are threatening to ban British imports from the area.

"In a world full of conflict, the UK plays a dangerous game," said Will McCallum, director of oceans at the British affiliate of Greenpeace. “The history of Antarctic protection has been characterized by peaceful cooperation for the common good of humanity. Russia's continued readiness to abuse the process does not excuse unilateral actions by other members. We hope that nations that in the past imported the South Georgia sharptooth fish will not accept the product of what is now an unregulated fishery."

For years, fishing off South Georgia was an example of international cooperation, bringing together normally adversarial powers like Russia, China and the United States, with the aim of protecting those waters from the kind of rampant fishing seen in the open sea.

Last year, when tensions with the West were rising over Ukraine, Russia decided to reject limits on toothfish fishing set by CCAMLR scientists. The measure was equivalent to a unilateral veto because unanimous solutions are traditionally sought.

There are those who say that the response of the United Kingdom, which issued licenses without the limits set by the CCAMLR, is illegal and weakens the Antarctic Treaty approved during the Cold War that declares the Antarctic continent an area of ​​scientific interest.

U.S. officials have privately told Britain that they are likely to ban imports of toothfish caught near South Georgia, according to correspondence between managers of fishing companies and U.S. lawmakers seen by the Associated Press.

The dispute indicates that Russia's efforts to undermine the West reach into the most remote regions, traditionally on the fringes of geopolitical battles.

There is also the risk of reviving tensions between Britain and Argentina, which invaded South Georgia in 1982 as part of a campaign to recapture the Falklands.

The controversy comes as the world's fish stocks are declining due to overfishing and consumers are demanding more transparency about the origin of their fillets. In these efforts, it is vital to have laws that regulate fishing in the open sea and in regions where the environment is in danger, such as the two poles.

“It sets a dangerous precedent,” said Evan Bloom, who for 15 years, until he retired from the State Department in 2020, headed the US delegation to CCAMLR.

"What the Russians did clearly violates the spirit of science-based fishing,"
said Bloom, now an expert on polar issues at the Wilson Center in Washington. "But that," he added, "does not necessarily mean that the UK can act unilaterally."

Three of the four vessels authorized by the UK to fish off South Georgia from May 1 are owned by Argos Froyanes, a British-Norwegian company that was at the forefront of efforts to develop techniques that significantly reduced mortality. of seabirds in the South Atlantic.(continues...)

Author: Joshua Goodman / AP  | | Read the full article by clicking the link here

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