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Argentina launches operation against chinese IUU fishing

The Argentine Armed Forces have launched Operation Griffon XVII in South Atlantic waters to strengthen their fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, while hundreds of fishing vessels, mainly Chinese-flagged, prey on the region’s fish stocks, Argentine news site Infobae reported.

An Argentine Navy aircraft watches as a foreign fishing vessel crosses its EEZ, vessel part of a large fleet that annually operates in the waters of the South Atlantic in search of fish resources, January 20, 2024. (Photo: Argentine Navy)

“Considering Chinese expansionist activities in the world, it is essential for military naval assets to control maritime jurisdictions in defense of sovereignty,” Argentine defense and international relations expert Luis Somoza told Diálogo on February 14.

Griffon XVII is under the authority of the Joint Maritime Command (COCM), which through the Argentine Navy, in collaboration with the Argentine Naval Prefecture (PNA), monitors maritime traffic in the southern Atlantic.

From the Mar del Plata Naval Base, the ocean patrol boat Rear Admiral Cordero initiated the Argentine government’s new strategy on January 15 to control a serious ongoing problem: IUU fishing at mile 200, the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) limit, Argentine newspaper La Nación reported.

Defense Minister Luis Petri told the press on the day of the start of Griffon XVII that there are between 450 and 500 vessels, mostly Chinese, coming from the Pacific, passing through the Strait of Magellan and positioning themselves at mile 201, just outside the EEZ.

“As of today, there are 344 that we have perfectly identified,” Minister Petri said. “IUU fishing causes the greatest losses to local economies, especially in Latin America, in addition to great environmental damage as a result of the destruction of natural maritime resources.”

According to Infobae, Argentine authorities decided to concentrate their efforts during the squid season from December to March, targeting the main product sought by Chinese companies.

The Chinese boats operating in Latin America are mostly fishing trawlers, which specialize in squid fishing and intentionally disable their Automatic Identification System (AIS) devices, a practice frequently used to avoid detection in areas where IUU fishing takes place.

“The Chinese Communist Party holds shares in most of the fishing companies, subsidizing this action,” Somoza said. “Illegal fishing activity is one of the main problems in the seas of South America, especially in the waters of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay, as vessels fish relentlessly beyond what is authorized and without licenses.”

Argentina has a maritime coastline of almost 5,000 kilometers and a wide continental shelf. The COCM, created on February 23, 2021, under the Operational Command of the Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff, plays a key role in the exercise of sovereign rights and to ensure the protection of natural resources in the Argentine Sea.

Ocean patrol vessel Rear Admiral Cordero leaves Mar del Plata bound for the south of the Argentine Sea, during the beginning of operation Griffon XVII, to monitor and control illegal fishing at mile 200, the EEZ limit, where Chinese fishing vessels indiscriminately fish squid, January 20, 2024. (Photo: Ministry of Defense of Argentina)

The Navy’s resources will be deployed mainly in the 44th parallel, which is located at the height of the Argentine province of Chubut, where the largest amount of squid fishing is concentrated.

“Aerial control must be done, satellite control must be done,” Minister Petri said. “But we also have to modify the entire legal system, particularly that which applies to administrative sanctions when incursions into our EEZ occur.”

“The region must organize itself to demand actions from the Chinese authorities, to stop their vessels’ illegal activities in Latin American waters,” Somoza added. “In addition, it must increase fines and sanctions against companies operating illegally.”

The Argentine government is seeking Congressional approval for the visit of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter JAMES to Argentina in April 2024. If approved, the PNA and the U.S. Coast Guard cutter USCG James will conduct combined training for the defense of fishing resources in the South Atlantic, Argentine news site Escenario Mundial reported.

The U.S. Coast Guard has been present in operations against IUU fishing from the Chinese fishing fleet in Peru, Chile, and Ecuador, within the framework of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization, an intergovernmental entity with 14 affiliated countries, which seeks to ensure sustainable fishing in that oceanic sector.

“The navies must increase surveillance and control operations with dissuasive measures to counteract the Chinese advance in the seas,” Somoza said.

With a population of more than 1,380 million, China is the world’s largest consumer of seafood. Its global catches have grown by more than 20 percent in the last five years, Agustín Barletti, author of the book The Dragon’s Hunger. China’s Plan to Devour the World, told Argentine daily El Tribuno.

According to Washington, D.C.-based think tank the Stimson Center, China and its state-owned enterprises have the world’s largest distant water fishing fleet, with nearly 3,000 vessels. That fleet is three times larger than the fleets of Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Spain combined, El Tribuno reported. It is estimated that Chinese fishing vessels took approximately 70 percent of the squid caught on the high seas in recent years.

“There must be coordination between the different nations adding efforts and capabilities and exchanging information against illegal fishing,” concluded Somoza. “China subjugates the sovereignty of Latin America in a cleary imperialist attitude, in a world where it is considered that 93 percent of the fishing reserves are already exploited to the limit.”

Source: Infobae and Dialogo Americas
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