Title

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t: Vanishing Vessels Along Argentina’s Waters

Author Information

OCEANA

Date of Publication

2021 12:00 AM

Security Theme

IUU Fishing

Keywords

Argentina, Argentina EEZ, IUUF, fishing, Latin America, fishing vessels, AIS, Automatic Identification Systems, gap events, missing vessels, dark vessels, AIS gap events

Description

"To meet the ever-growing global demand for seafood, fishing vessels are traveling farther away and fishing longer. These distant-water fleets fish outside of their own national waters, including on the high seas where some regions are managed by international bodies, overseeing valuable highly migratory species. In other areas, vast expanses of important habitat are left unprotected and populations of commercial species are left unmanaged or unregulated. Every year, vessels from distant-water fleets crowd together along Argentina’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to take advantage of the lucrative fishing grounds. Argentina’s extensive waters boast a tremendous abundance and diversity of marine life, including more than 330 types of finfish, nearly 120 deep- sea species, and a variety of invertebrates. Commercial fishermen target approximately 60 to 70 of these species,1 including the Argentine shortfin squid (Illex argentinus), which makes up the second-largest squid fishery in the world, with half of the global catch coming from Argentina’s EEZ.2 Between January 1, 2018, and April 25, 2021, over 800 fishing vessels conducted nearly 900,000 hours of apparent fishingi within 20 nautical miles of the invisible border between Argentina’s national waters and the high seas. During this 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 Automatic Identification Systems (AIS). These vessels’ activities were hidden for over 600,000 hours. Nearly 66% of the “dark” vessels were Chinese- flagged squid jiggers (i.e., vessels with bright lights and hooks designed to catch squid). Despite having a smaller fleet, Spanish trawlers (i.e., vessels that tow heavy nets to catch species like Argentine hake and red shrimp) went “dark” more than three times as often as Chinese vessels. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing thrives out of sight and undermines efforts to responsibly manage and protect our oceans. Disabling AIS hides fishing vessel locations frompublic view and could mask potentially illegal behavior, such as crossing into Argentina’s EEZ to fish. In many cases, AIS avoidance goes hand in hand with illegal fishing in Argentina’s EEZ.3,4 This connection was particularly evident in April 2020, when approximately 100 squid jiggers, mostly Chinese-flagged, were allegedly caught fishing illegally within Argentina’s EEZ, each with their AIS turned off.3,5-7 These vessels reportedly waited just outside the EEZ boundary until nightfall, when they apparently turned off their AIS, entered Argentina’s waters, and fished.3,5 This scandal prompted the Cámara de Armadores de Poteros Argentinos (Argentina’s fisheries association) to request action from the president himself,3,5,7 and less than a week later, another vessel — this time a Portuguese trawler — was arrested for illegally fishing in Argentina’s EEZ.8 Interactions between the Argentine Coast Guard and illegal fishing vessels have escalated to violence, with some deeming the conflict a “literal war.”9 There have been at least two instances in which Chinese fishing vessels have allegedly attacked authorities after being suspected of fishing illegally in Argentina's waters: In 2016, a Chinese trawler was sunk after reportedly trying to ram a Coast Guard vessel,10-12 and in 2018, four Chinese fishing vessels allegedly teamed up to protect a fifth vessel the Coast Guard was pursuing.11-13"

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Jan 1st, 12:00 AM

Now You See Me, Now You Don’t: Vanishing Vessels Along Argentina’s Waters

"To meet the ever-growing global demand for seafood, fishing vessels are traveling farther away and fishing longer. These distant-water fleets fish outside of their own national waters, including on the high seas where some regions are managed by international bodies, overseeing valuable highly migratory species. In other areas, vast expanses of important habitat are left unprotected and populations of commercial species are left unmanaged or unregulated. Every year, vessels from distant-water fleets crowd together along Argentina’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to take advantage of the lucrative fishing grounds. Argentina’s extensive waters boast a tremendous abundance and diversity of marine life, including more than 330 types of finfish, nearly 120 deep- sea species, and a variety of invertebrates. Commercial fishermen target approximately 60 to 70 of these species,1 including the Argentine shortfin squid (Illex argentinus), which makes up the second-largest squid fishery in the world, with half of the global catch coming from Argentina’s EEZ.2 Between January 1, 2018, and April 25, 2021, over 800 fishing vessels conducted nearly 900,000 hours of apparent fishingi within 20 nautical miles of the invisible border between Argentina’s national waters and the high seas. During this 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 Automatic Identification Systems (AIS). These vessels’ activities were hidden for over 600,000 hours. Nearly 66% of the “dark” vessels were Chinese- flagged squid jiggers (i.e., vessels with bright lights and hooks designed to catch squid). Despite having a smaller fleet, Spanish trawlers (i.e., vessels that tow heavy nets to catch species like Argentine hake and red shrimp) went “dark” more than three times as often as Chinese vessels. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing thrives out of sight and undermines efforts to responsibly manage and protect our oceans. Disabling AIS hides fishing vessel locations frompublic view and could mask potentially illegal behavior, such as crossing into Argentina’s EEZ to fish. In many cases, AIS avoidance goes hand in hand with illegal fishing in Argentina’s EEZ.3,4 This connection was particularly evident in April 2020, when approximately 100 squid jiggers, mostly Chinese-flagged, were allegedly caught fishing illegally within Argentina’s EEZ, each with their AIS turned off.3,5-7 These vessels reportedly waited just outside the EEZ boundary until nightfall, when they apparently turned off their AIS, entered Argentina’s waters, and fished.3,5 This scandal prompted the Cámara de Armadores de Poteros Argentinos (Argentina’s fisheries association) to request action from the president himself,3,5,7 and less than a week later, another vessel — this time a Portuguese trawler — was arrested for illegally fishing in Argentina’s EEZ.8 Interactions between the Argentine Coast Guard and illegal fishing vessels have escalated to violence, with some deeming the conflict a “literal war.”9 There have been at least two instances in which Chinese fishing vessels have allegedly attacked authorities after being suspected of fishing illegally in Argentina's waters: In 2016, a Chinese trawler was sunk after reportedly trying to ram a Coast Guard vessel,10-12 and in 2018, four Chinese fishing vessels allegedly teamed up to protect a fifth vessel the Coast Guard was pursuing.11-13"