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Fishing at Mile 201: ´The Argentine diplomatic muscle is atrophied and does not work´

Click on the flag for more information about Argentina ARGENTINA
Tuesday, February 07, 2023, 01:10 (GMT + 9)

Illegal fishing specialist Milko Schvartzman fueled the debate on IUU fishing in the South Atlantic when he criticized an article published by other specialists on the subject on Twitter. In this interview he gives the point of view of him being extremely critical of the Foreign Ministry and warns that it is on the way to an environmental disaster.

When we published the article by Roberto García Moritán and Otto C. Wöhler on illegal trawling at Mile 201, a controversy arose on Twitter because the specialist on these issues, Milko Schvartzman, considered a point of view of the authors regarding bilateral agreements. That was the trigger for an urgent and important debate that must take place in the country and especially in the fishing industry. Despite Schvartzman's aggressive response to the article by the ex-director of INIDEP and the ex-ambassador, the coincidences regarding the view they have on this problem far exceed the differences and their contribution enriches the discussion between people who have the same objective, to preserve and exercise sovereignty over our resources.

PUERTO MAGAZINE: In the article written by Wöhler and García Moritán, the authors conclude that, based on the mandates of UNCLOS and the Fisheries Law, Argentina should carry out actions or bilateral agreements to seek to control fishing in Mile 201. This is not a textual quotation of said norms but rather an appreciation of the authors. Why then describe it as false and even malicious? Why do you do that reading?

MILKO SCHVARTZMAN: Well, neither the UNCLOS nor the law mentions the words bilateral agreements, it does mention taking actions to seek regulation of fishing in that area. What I believe is that there is no mandate for either of the two legal tools and, on the other hand, that bilateral agreements be sought... It is something that we have been hearing lately, more than anything from the government and it is a new initiative... I think it is It is good that each one present the initiatives and possible solutions to completely unregulated fishing beyond mile 200, but it is important to clarify one thing, a bilateral agreement cannot be made on a resource that is shared. Argentina cannot make an agreement with China on how to exploit the illex squid, when it is a species shared with Uruguay and Brazil, for example; the same with other species and if we go to the ecosystem, it is also shared. I would say that we put the search for solutions to this lack of control in a multilateral way and starting with the governments of the region. There are many aspects of the note in which I agree, it is true that trawling on the continental shelf beyond 200 miles is already implicitly prohibited because any vessel that wanted to fish would have to have a permit. They refer to the fact that the Blue Hole MPA proposal does not change anything and I absolutely agree with that.

RP: How impossible would it be to celebrate bilateral agreements with Uruguay (although it would be improbable due to Uruguayan commercial interests) in establishing strict control of catches, taking advantage of its role as FAO's main port?

Imagen: Milko Schvartzman y Global Fishing Watch

MS: In order to sign multilateral agreements, including Uruguay, they would have to be consulted. The director of the Uruguayan Aquatic Resources Directorate, Jaime Coronel, has mentioned that Uruguay would be interested in having an order. Although he mentioned it as an RFMO and that is not within the policies of the State of Argentina, another type of agreement could be made, a commission like the CAMELAR of Antarctica that regulates exploitation. What Uruguay usually uses as an excuse for not controlling is that since there is no regulation in that area, they cannot demand anything from the boats. And well, one way to solve the problem of unregulated and sometimes illegal fishing would be to find a way to order fishing in that area, without this meaning creating an RFMO, but that generates demands to be able to operate, that they have to have an observer, satellite tracking turned on… If this continues, if the status quo continues, it is possible that there will be a collapse. Today I saw in the magazine (see "The fleet is fishing well, similar to last year") the catch statistics outside the INIDEP ZEE, 10 years ago they estimated catches at 100,000 tons and in 2021 they were 200,000. it doubled in 8 years and if this continues, there will inevitably be a collapse of the resource with an impact on the entire ecosystem and other species and let's remember that illex is the main food for hubbsi hake. A solution to this problem must be found before it is too late.

RP: From what has been said, an agreement with Uruguay would not be out of context or any other country in the region to seek forms of control?

MS: It is not possible or legitimate to make a bilateral agreement on the species, but there could be agreements that have to do with other aspects, that could be done... referring to the transparency of catch information...

<--Image: China Dialogue Ocean/Globalfishingwatch/MS/FIS

RP: In the article by Wöhler and García Moritán, the issue of bilateral agreements is collateral. The most relevant point is the one raised by Argentina's dominance over the extended continental shelf, for which many ships that operate at mile 201 to the limit over which we have control in the submarine platform should have a national fishing permit and respect the legislation.

MS: I agree on that point about trawling, any type of trawling on the continental shelf is illegal and no permission has been given to any foreign vessel. That can be analyzed and I agree.

RP: In the case of an area in which our country has dominance, what risk would it imply for Argentina to establish agreements with Spain to regulate trawling?

MS: It is necessary to see that they are species that are not shared and in general the species of the seabed have little distribution. In that case, I would try to move forward with a multilateral agreement because Argentina cannot make an agreement with Spain for the fishing of one species, with China another agreement, we have to have a common agreement because otherwise we would have a double standard with each of those of us who are going to sit down. That type of agreement would not be beneficial or legitimate.

RP: Wouldn't it be possible to apply Argentine legislation to whoever fishes with a trawl net in an area under our jurisdiction, such as the extended shelf area?

MS: In that case, progress could be made, if the same rules are applied to everyone, I think it could be possible, it could be analyzed. In any case, there is an aspect that is not being considered, there is a part of the continental shelf that Argentina presented that was not recognized by the UN because it was in conflict. From Comodoro Rivadavia to the south it is not opposable to third states because it has not been recognized. It is worth clarifying that we cannot exercise governance, nor can the United Kingdom advance.

RP: The State has recently sought to erase illegal fishing from the vocabulary when speaking of the South Atlantic. What do you think of this change?

MS: The effort to clarify concepts and clearly communicate when it is illegal and when it is not seems good to me. The effort to minimize the impact of unregulated and unreported fishing does not seem positive to me. Argentina adhered to the plan to combat IUU fishing in 2008 and for our country it is "and/or illegal" because it is only illegal when they enter the EEZ without permission. I think this effort is correct because it is not illegal according to our rules. But it must be considered that it is destructive and has an impact on the ecosystems and species of the Argentine Sea, it does not comply with certain UNCLOS regulations that say that there must be a sustainable exploitation of resources as long as it is verifiable and that does not happen. The states that fish there do so in an uncontrolled manner. If it is not illegal, we could say that it is not one hundred percent legal either. It does not seem to me that it is right to minimize because we are talking about more than five hundred boats, with a situation that worsens year by year.

Image: Milko Schvartzman y Global Fishing Watch

RP: Is the political decision to advance or not to advance against illegal fishing at mile 201?

MS: There is no interest. I always say that we have two arms to defend resources, sovereignty and the environment in the South Atlantic, one is force through persecution and prevention through the Navy and Prefecture, which is a muscle that is active with the resources that it has and the other is the diplomatic muscle that is atrophied, it is not working. There are some positive cases, such as the WTO Agreement, which was an eleven-year process in which a first advance was achieved, but then, in the search for a solution to the anarchy that occurs at Mile 201, neither work nor Solutions have not been sought in any of the administrations of the last decades. An environmental catastrophe is being allowed to occur that is going to affect the Argentine economy. There is also no progress with the countries that carry out illegal fishing, from 2021 to the present the Chinese fleet moved 50 kilometers away from the EEZ of Ecuador in the Pacific, in one year Ecuador achieved it and last year it was also possible to apply it in the zone of Peru. While Argentina, in more than twenty years of Chinese illegal fishing, has not managed to get them to move even a mile away. Since 2001, Chinese boats have entered Argentina illegally to fish, for twenty-two years there have been entries of boats that have been captured in the Argentine Sea, Ecuador did not have a single illegal entry and achieved what we did not, being even in a worse situation because its fleet is smaller. Ecuador is a country that is highly indebted to China and that did not stop it from moving forward. It is then clear that the Argentine diplomatic muscle is atrophied and does not work.

RP: How did Ecuador achieve it?

The Chinese fleet maintains a distance of 50 nm from the Galapagos EEZ – © GFW

MS: You did it with diplomatic pressure on China, with meetings, with work, with public statements, with formal protests against China and public pressure. When it came to light in 2020 that the same Chinese fleet that mostly operates here operated around the Galapagos, even the president came out to talk about the environmental impact. The public and government pressure of Ecuador was such that the Chinese ambassador in Ecuador had to give press conferences, while, in Argentina, the Chinese ambassador calls the Foreign Ministry to request that they not report when an illegal ship is detected or captured. , we all know this. If the Argentine government together with the Foreign Ministry put on their pants, we could achieve it, we could demand that they maintain a buffer distance beyond mile 200. It is clear that diplomatic work has not been effective, not only from this administration but also from all in these 20 years.

RP: Have you presented any proposal from the Circle of Environmental Policies?

MS: We propose looking for a legal tool to order that it does not have to be a RFMO, a tool that does not erode the claim of sovereignty over the Argentine islands, which has been the excuse until today for doing nothing. The problem we have today is that a solution is not being sought, we have an army of diplomats with degrees in law and international law who are not working for that and if they do not work for that in the future we will not have species to protect, because it will be late

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