Fishing trade groups push for regulation of high seas off Argentina to fight IUU

Published on
June 2, 2020

Fishing trade groups representing Argentinean and Spanish fishing businesses have formed a framework for management of FAO zone 41, an area of ocean located just outside of Argentina’s exclusive economic zone.

The area is rich in hake and squid, which has been targeted by between 22 and 26 Spanish fishing vessels for the past 37 years. Recently, it has come under intense fishing pressure from Chinese, Korean, and Taiwanese ships, according to Cepesca, an association representing 725 Spanish fishing companies.

On 1 June, Cepesca joined with the National Association of Hake Fishing Freezer Vessel Owners (ANAMER), representing a 34-ship fleet that fishes for hake and cephalopods in FAO zone 41, as well as the Organization for the Protection of the Resources of the Southwest Atlantic (OPRAS), a nonprofit established in 2018 with the goal of promoting sustainable fisheries management in international waters, to sign an agreement outlining a process for bringing the area of the high seas in question under a legal management framework.

The agreement calls for the implementation and international recognition of a defined fishing area as a regulated marine ecosystem in the Southwest Atlantic. It also creates a technical commission tasked with identifying areas and species within the zone that should be prioritized for conservation or protection.

In 2019, a similar agreement was signed between ANAMER, CEPESCA, and SINDIPI, the Chamber of Shipowners and the Fishing Industries of Itajai and Regiao of Brazil – a country with an EEZ that also borders FAO zone 41. Both agreement have been forwarded to the United Nations and FAO to encourage those organizations to establish management mechanisms for international waters, which are currently unregulated, the groups said in a press release.

“Today, OPRAS, ANAMER, and CEPESCA sign an important agreement, ratifying the commitment of our organizations to achieve order and necessary governance in the exploitation of high seas resources in the Southwest Atlantic,” OPRAS President Alan Mackern said. “Holding principles of legality, rationality, and sustainability for the development of the legitimate fishing of the industry, its companies and associate members; charting the path to be followed in a region of the high seas that lacks regulations and that presents certain risks of depredation due to the irrational abuse of supposed freedoms that exceed international standards.”

The OPRAS project “aims to assume a greater role and promote to organizations and governments the need to push the application in this area of ​​the essential regulations for the management and conservation of fisheries on the high seas, as a formula to eradicate both abusive practices and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing,” the organization said.

Juan Manuel Liria, president of ANAMER and CEPESCA, said the Spanish vessels fishing in the area are subject to European Union regulations that require them to obtain a special fishing permit, have fisheries observers on board, and to avoid fishing in areas declared as vulnerable marine ecosystems. The fleet also was required to conduct mapping of the seabed in the entire area in which it planned to fish before it was certified to fish in the area by the E.U.

Liria said his groups were seeking  “to maintain environmental balance and the health of the area's marine ecosystems as the only formula for guarantee the future of the fishing ground.”

“For the Spanish fishing sector and by extension for the European Union, it is vital to be part of and push initiatives like this, since we are convinced that only a sustainable fishing activity can ensure its future and this happens, inexorably , for eradicating abusive practices and any type of illegal fishing,” he said.

The agreement seeks to avoid coverage of “maritime spaces susceptible to disputes or controversies related to pending issues of jurisdiction or sovereignty or that are within the scope of existing regional fisheries treaties or organizations.”

The three organizations involved in the signing are encouraging other organizations involved in the global fishing industry to adhere to the principles of this agreement and to commit to its objectives, they said.

Photo courtesy of Cepesca

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