Illegal and unregulated fishing by Falkland Islanders is costing Argentina hundreds of millions of pounds, Argentine diplomats have claimed. It marks the latest chapter in a decades-long power struggle for control of the islands.
Eduardo Pucci, chief executive of Argentina’s OPRAS (Organization for the Protection of Fishery Resources), claimed that between 200,000 and 400,000 tonnes of fish were being caught illegally at a cost of £750 million by the Falklands.
Fishing in the Falkland Islands dates back to 1986 after the UK allowed the British Overseas Territory to award and trade fishing licenses.
However, this move was not recognised by Argentina as they claimed waters around the disputed South Georgia, South Sandwich and the Falkland Islands.
Argentine regulations are enforced in these areas.
Mr Pucci said: “The only vessels that comply with the regulations are the Argentine, the rest violate cooperation, disregard respect for the ecosystem and ignore responsible catches, and not to mention conservation measures.
“It is also essential to regulate fishing in the area adjacent to the Argentine EEZ because they are mostly migrant species, and this means the coastal state provides the fish and those outside the 200 miles take unregulated advantage of the resource.”
Juan Augusto Rattenbach, executive secretary of the Malvinas Museum, said that the economy of the Islands has “changed drastically” since 1986.
He added: “Fisheries became the main industry, with 90 percent of exports and annual revenue of £375 million dollars.”
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Mr Rattenbach stressed that besides influencing negatively the Argentine fishing industry, the “depredation” of the seas by the Falklanders Islanders has also caused the loss of direct and indirect jobs for Argentine workers, plus additional industries such as vessel building and the maintenance of the fleet.
It comes after the country’s Fisheries Under-Secretary said that combating illegal fishing was ”an absolute priority” for the Argentine government, especially “what is going on in the Malvinas waters.”
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez has held a firm stance on fishing spaces around the Falklands and other South Atlantic Islands since taking office in December.
The Argentine Congress has also unanimously approved three bills in relation to fisheries.
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One of them involves the formation of a new council composed of government members, opposition, veterans and academia.
A second bill extends the country’s continental shelf from 200 to 350 miles, following the framework of the UN Law of the Sea.
The third is a fisheries bill which hikes fines for illegal fishing in Argentine waters.
Fines are calculated according to each vessel’s fuel consumption, ranging from 300,000 to a million litres, and the costs of escorting the poaching vessel to a port.
Argentina claims sovereignty to the Falklands which are known as Malvinas Islands in Buenos Aires.
However, the UK government has made it clear that any future negotiations will depend on how Falkland Islanders want to progress their status.