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Why is bottom trawling by foreign vessels at Mile 201 illegal?

Click on the flag for more information about Argentina ARGENTINA
Tuesday, January 31, 2023, 03:30 (GMT + 9)

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU or IUU fishing) is a practice that generates great concern in states and society, since it threatens the conservation of ocean biodiversity and causes great damage, generating the loss of social and economic opportunities, affecting food security and even leading to the collapse of fisheries.
In a recent newspaper article, which tries to shed light on the concepts of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the area adjacent to our Exclusive Economic Zone, called mile 201, it is rightly indicated that not all IUU fishing is illegal , since the term incorporates two other notions and activities that are conceptually and legally very different, but that, nevertheless, illegal fishing practices always fall under the category of IUU. Coinciding with what was expressed by Dr. Ariel Mansi regarding the genesis and application of this concept, we believe that illegal fishing should be distinguished and given a differential treatment with respect to those practices classified as unreported and/or unregulated fishing.
Regardless of the ratification or not of the Agreement on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish (New York-1995) or the Agreement on Port State Measures (AMERP-2009), the truth is that from Argentina's perspective as a coastal state, conduct Fishing is considered illegal when it violates UNCLOS, which was ratified and approved for national legislation by Law 24,593 in October 1995, or local laws and regulations within our Exclusive Economic Zone (ZEE).
Said international Convention establishes, in its article 77 that "The coastal State exercises sovereign rights over the continental shelf for the purposes of its exploration and exploitation of its natural resources." These rights "are exclusive in the sense that, if the coastal State does not explore the continental shelf or exploit its natural resources, no one may undertake these activities without the express consent of said State" and "are independent of its actual occupation or fictitious, as well as any express statement”.
Additionally, it clarifies that the natural resources mentioned are, in addition to minerals and other non-living resources, "living organisms belonging to sedentary species, that is, those that during the period of exploitation are immobile on the sea bed or in its subsoil or only They can move in constant physical contact with the bed or subsoil.
Given the recognition of the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLPC) in March 2016, of the new outer limits of the Argentine Continental Shelf, it is very clear that the sessile benthic resources present in the sectors in which they operate today various fishing fleets (inside and outside the Exclusive Economic Zone) belong to our country. However, given that trawling (and, although to a lesser extent, also that which operates with bottom longlines) violates different living resources attached to or in contact with the seabed, then it is violating resources owned by the Argentine state.
Since the fishing activity in the area adjacent to the ZEE (on the continental shelf) has been regulated by our country since 2004 (Resolution CFP 8/04), through the essential requirement of granting a deep sea fishing license. to operate in said area, then whoever does not have the enabling license and carries out bottom trawling or longline fishing activities is carrying out illegal fishing practices.
For these reasons, bottom trawling and longline fishing by foreign vessels that occurs in waters adjacent to the ZEE of Argentina is not only unregulated fishing, as indicated in the aforementioned newspaper article, but also illegal. The illegality of the fishing activity does not only occur when it operates within the EEZ of a country in contravention of its laws and regulations, but also in the extension of its territory, such as the submarine continental shelf that exceeds 200 nautical miles, when they violate the sessile or sedentary living resources that inhabit it.
Therefore, in the areas of the continental shelf recognized by the UN as belonging to our country, adjacent to our EEZ, only the application of UNCLOS and national laws and regulations is required to regulate (even to the extreme) to prohibit) bottom trawling or longline fishing operations by foreign vessels that do not hold deep-sea fishing permits.
Nor is the establishment of a Marine Protected Area (AMP) required to achieve this effect, as has been proposed through the creation of the "Blue Hole" AMP. This bill, which has received partial approval from the Chamber of Deputies, contemplates as the only conservation category the creation of a Strict National Marine Reserve of exclusively benthic scope, therefore, in relation to fishing, it is limited to prohibiting bottom trawling and other extractive activities that have contact with the seabed, while fishing in the water column is permitted.
MPA "Agujero Azul" area
In order to regulate trawling in the adjacent area, it is only necessary to know the national and international laws and regulations applicable in the matter and to possess the firm political will to protect our natural wealth from the predatory action carried out by foreign fleets. It must not be tolerated that IUU fishing affects ecosystems or our fishing grounds in the way that it does. Therefore, it would be very useful, based on the mandate of UNCLOS and the Federal Fisheries Law - 24,922 - (Articles 4, 5 and 22), to carry out the necessary actions or bilateral agreements to limit the fishing activity that takes place in the area, in such a way that the overexploitation of the resources that today characterizes said sector of our platform does not occur. It is not enough to surprise us and show us outraged year after year by the enormous number of foreign ships that come to the area to fill their holds. On the contrary, we must take measures within the framework of current laws to correct these practices, because it is unacceptable to risk the sustainability of the valuable and scarce resources that the sea offers us, negatively affecting the economy and harming Argentine society in its set.

Otto C. Wöhler. Dr. in Biological Sciences. Former Scientific Director of INIDEP. Specialist in evaluation and management of fisheries.
Roberto Garcia Moritan. Ambassador. Expert in geopolitical issues. Author of a large number of opinion articles in various journalistic media.

Authors: Otto Wöhler and Roberto García Moritán / Revista Puerto (translated from original in spanish)


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