Hundreds of Fishing Fleets Dying Out on Suspicion of Illegal Hunting, Study Finds | Peach
Giant offshore fishing fleets, mostly Chinese, turn off their spotting beacons to evade detection as they engage in a potentially illegal hunt for squid and other lucrative species at the edge of the vast fishing grounds of the Argentina, according to a new study by Oceana, an international NGO dedicated to ocean conservation.
Every year, vessels congregate along the boundaries of Argentina’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to take advantage of the lucrative fishing grounds.
By monitoring vessel tracking beacons between January 2018 and April 2021, Oceana discovered that more than 800 vessels would have completed nearly 900,000 hours of fishing within a 20 nautical mile radius of the invisible border between Argentina’s national waters and Argentina. high sea.
“During that three-and-a-half-year period, there were over 6,000 instances in which these fishing vessels appeared to go ‘dark’ by potentially disabling their electronic tracking devices, known as identification systems. automatic (AIS), ”says the report, released Wednesday, titled Now You See Me, Now You Don’t: Vanishing Vessels Along Argentina’s Waters.
In total, these vessels have been “hidden” for more than 600,000 hours during which Oceana suspects that they crossed Argentine territorial waters for illegal fishing.
“It is very suspicious that they have their AIS turned off for so much of the time they are fishing,” said Marla Valentine, an environmentalist at Oceana, an international NGO dedicated to ocean conservation.
“Billions of dollars of marine life are removed from ecosystems, such as squid, hake and shrimp, which feed on species like tuna. This can have lasting impacts on their reproductive cycle, ”said Valentine.
Almost 66% of ‘dark’ vessels were Chinese-flagged squid – vessels with bright lights and hooks designed to catch squid, while 6%
But Spanish trawlers that tow heavy nets along the seabed to catch species such as Argentine hake and red shrimp have turned “black” more often than Chinese ships.
“On average, the largest Chinese fleet had 12.88 ‘deviation events’ per vessel while the smaller Spanish fleet had an average of 45 deviations per vessel,” said Valentine.
The presence of so many ships just off Argentine waters has prompted a number of high seas clashes with the Argentine Coast Guard. In April last year, around 100 squids – most of them flying the Chinese flag – were caught illegally fishing during nighttime forays into Argentinian waters, each with their AIS turned off.
“In 2016, a Chinese trawler was sunk after attempting to crash into a coastguard vessel and in 2018, four Chinese fishing vessels reportedly teamed up to protect a fifth vessel the coastguard was chasing,” the report said.
“There is a fine line between what is legal, sustainable, responsible and regulated,” said Valentine. “They could be an inch from Argentina’s exclusion zone and that would be considered legal.”
Argentina has one of the largest squid fisheries in the world with a commercial value of nearly $ 4 billion in 2016. The country’s squid “are of critical importance to the global economy, food security and resilience of the oceans, ”the report says.
Last year, Oceana also reported illegal fishing by huge Chinese fleets along South America’s Pacific coast, affecting Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Ships in this group have also been accused of disable their public trackers, and engage in potentially suspicious transhipment practices, all of which can facilitate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.