Argentina’s squid industry protests Chinese EEZ incursions

Published on
April 29, 2020

Argentina’s Fisheries Ministry has approached the Chinese embassy with a complaint about a Chinese squid-jigger illegally operating in Argentina’s exclusive economic zone.

The move comes as China has drafted what it promises is a tighter new regime to monitor its Chinese squid vessels.

The vessel, the Lu Rong Yuan Yu 688, was confronted earlier this week by the Argentine coast guard, but the crew turned off its fishing lights, pulled in its jiggers, and headed for international waters, according to the Argentine Navy, which also claims the vessel was operating with its AIS satellite identification system switched off.

The confrontation comes as an Argentinian representative body complained to its national government about a mass of Chinese vessels operating on the border of the company’s EEZ. More than 100 vessels were counted by a survey performed by the Cámara de Armadores de Pesqueres y Congeladores de la Argentina (CAPECA), whose director general, Eduardo Román, has called on the Argentine government to “save Argentina’s squid resources” in a public statement. In response, Argentina has deployed spotter planes alongside its navy vessels into the waters off its coast.

The vessel pursued by the Argentinian navy has a similar name to that of the Lu Rong Yuan Yu 956, which was detained for fishing illegally in Ghana’s waters in June 2019. The vessel belongs to Ghana-registered Gyinam Fisheries Limited, a subsidiary of Rongcheng Ocean Fishery Co. Ltd., based in Shandong Province. Despite failing to pay a USD 1 million (EUR 919,420) penalty, the ship was apparently released from custody, and it was observed once again operating in the waters of Ghana and the Ivory Coast via AIS tracking from December 2019 through February 2020.

China’s distant-water fleet is monitored by a dozen staff members of China’s Fishery Bureau, in conjunction with the Chinese Overseas Fisheries Association, a government-sponsored industry body charged with data collection. The Fisheries Bureau also works with a monitoring and research arm co-hosted by Shanghai Ocean University (SOU) and Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences (CAFS).

Meanwhile, a new draft of a management system proposed by China’s Agriculture Ministry will restrict Chinese vessels in the South Atlantic squid fishing grounds if approved in China and by regional authorities. It will include seasonal fishing closures, human observer and electronic monitoring coverage, and a call for more active management of the global squid fishery by regional fishery management organizations, according to marine biologist Songlin Wang, the founder and president of the Qingdao Marine Conservation Society (QMCS) and lead strategist for China and Southeast Asia for the Aquaculture Steward Council.

“Being the world's largest squid fishing, processing, consumption, and trading country, Chinese decision-makers now have a full recognition that how the health of high-seas squid stocks is directly relevant to China's economic interest,” Wang told SeafoodSource. “This is probably the first time that the Chinese leadership is proactively planning to manage fishing efforts of its distant-water fishing fleets, and exploring the use of tools such as seasonal fishing closures, and even suggesting establishing international platforms such as RFMOs for squid resources. I think this is a great step for China to showcase its willingness to take more international environmental and social responsibilities.” 

Photo courtesy of Nattaphon W/Shutterstock

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