With the recent change of government, a crisis has been unleashed in the Argentine fishing sector due to the proposed modification to the "Fisheries Law" (Law 24,922)
The success achieved by the president Javier Milei in the 'cultural' area has been supported by his personal vision and experience in the economic area. Up to this point we could say that the majority of Argentines support his president and his plan of profound reforms proposed to put the country back on a path that it was very successful in at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th.
There was a team of people who worked on the preparation of a bill called "Bases and Starting Points for the Freedom of Argentines"
, which proposes important and profound changes in fishing activity, and which has fallen to the sector and the coastal provinces as a bucket of cold water, not only for not having been taken into account when thinking and drafting these changes, but also for the errors it contains.
I am not going to analyze or criticize the text of the bill since there are several recently published articles that have done so in recent days (see footnotes). On the contrary, I understand that due to the seriousness of the social and economic situation in Argentina, it is the right time to contribute ideas or elements that will help legislators, advisors and politicians make the right decisions in the days to come.
Nobody disputes the need to create a new Fisheries Law, just as nobody is going to deny that the sector can improve, grow and generate more foreign currency for the country. But to achieve these objectives it is necessary to look a little "beyond" the panorama that some have and that unfortunately is limited to the "local" experience of current activity without taking into account future possibilities in a broader context.
It would be very extensive to talk here about all the topics that should be considered, but at least it is very important to keep in mind that in Argentina at least 3 very different maps are currently used when reflecting and analyzing fishing activity. This does not generally happen in other countries and for that reason I highlight it since this is where a reality that is little known to most people is projected.
Maps to take into account
The first map is the one currently used by the Undersecretary of Fisheries, the Federal Fisheries Council
and the five provinces that have representatives there:
It should be noted that Argentina, thanks to the excellent work of its Foreign Ministry and a team of experts, achieved recognition by the United Nations of the Extension of the Extended Platform (2016)
. Area in which Argentina has exclusive domain under certain conditions defined by UNCLOS but of which unfortunately no one has yet become aware of the need to develop and incorporate a plan to organize and exploit it commercially
. (1,782 were incorporated into the Argentine Continental Shelf. 500 square kilometers. This means a 35% expansion of the seabed and subsoil that are under Argentine sovereignty).
In this map is possible to see in detail the Extension area of the Extended Platform
The second map is the one used by the Argentine Foreign Ministry
where the Argentine Territory and Sea are shown, including the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf:
It should be noted that Argentina shares a table at CCAMLR with the United Kingdom under a "special agreement" where claims were set aside and the Conservation of Species was put as a priority. It would be logical to think that there is room to negotiate and reach an agreement to be able to Regulate and Control the fishing activity outside Argentina's Exclusive EEZ (international waters). Putting the sustainability of resources above conflicts and claims would be a great step for both Argentina and the United Kingdom.
The third map is the one that should be taken into account when seeing where Argentina is really located in the international context. It is based on 'this reality' that not only a new Fisheries Law could be defined but also a new regional approach to collaboration to combat IUU fishing.
IUU as well as establishing the beginning of a new stage at the international level.
Although many talk these days about "illegal fishing", for this to happen 'technically and legally', Argentina should take some steps before the FAO (UN) regarding its migratory species.
An example is the illex squid, which is largely caught in international waters by more than 500 foreign vessels outside the Argentine EEZ where currently no one regulates, declares or controls fishing and therefore the sustainability of marine resources is left to chance. . The mere fact of declaring squid as a migratory species in danger of being affected by possible "overfishing" by the foreign fleet that operates outside the EEZ, without a scientific basis and without control over catches, transshipments, fishing gear , etc. would give rise to formally declaring the existence of IUU fishing.
FAO 41, Argentina and the 'high seas'
- FAO will support the implementation of the landmark treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity on the high seas
- The agreement on the biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction was approved at an intergovernmental conference in New York
FAO will support its Members in the implementation of this agreement, often called the “High Seas Treaty”, on the safeguarding of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, which had been under discussion for almost two decades and was approved at an intergovernmental conference in New York on June 19, 2023, after five negotiation sessions.
The Agreement on Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction is of utmost importance for efforts to address environmental challenges and promote the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity on the high seas.
FAO Fishing Zones: The main FAO fishing zones are a classification of the UN – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – that divides the ocean masses of the globe into fishing sectors.
The 'Fishing Sector' has a degree of technical, political and diplomatic complexity that requires a deeper and broader analysis when developing new rules of the game. I understand that not only the other coastal countries of FAO 41 (Uruguay, Brazil and France) surely want to participate by collaborating with Argentina but also other important governments such as the EU, USA, Japan, China, Norway and even the United Kingdom which along with some other countries, could join this new Argentine proposal. Environmental organizations and NGOs should also participate, both nationally and internationally, as well as organizations and institutions such as INIDEP, CONICET and Universities.
Four to close
There are many more topics to mention and comment on but I would like to highlight at least four that obviously cannot be part of a Law but of a new approach and strategy related to it:
- It is very striking that a 'NEW FISHERIES LAW' is considered or intended to be incorporated, without also giving a place to aquaculture/mariculture, which has tremendous potential and should be "elevated" in category and priority, perhaps becoming another Undersecretary incorporating a Federal Aquaculture Council so possibly a 'NEW FISHING AND AQUACULTURE LAW' should be considered in an integrated manner. This would require FISHING and AQUACULTURE to become a Secretary within the Ministry of Economy, becoming independent of Agriculture and Livestock.
- Decentralizing the administration of the sector that currently passes through the City of Buenos Aires, when all the activity takes place in the interior of the Country, is something that should surely also be taken into account with the relocation of Undersecretariats, Directorates and the CFP in key points of the interior . It is worth clarifying that the sector itself could assume the cost of the state administrative structure that the sector requires as well as cover the costs of INIDEP both at the fleet level and its staff, who receive very low salaries by the way. In the case of CONICET, it could possibly cover the operating costs of a part of the fleet and scientific personnel with international contributions in the case of being able to establish an international organization that regulates and manages fishing in international waters. In this way, vessels and personnel dedicated to research could improve their level of income and ensure the sustainability of fishing inside and outside the Argentine EEZ.
- Other measures that the sector and the government should analyze are the recent international regulations that will limit exports of Argentine seafood with "emission" to Europe and the United States, which will come into force soon and where importers they will have to end up paying more depending on how much associated CO2 there is. (It would be necessary to consider modernizing part of the fleet, decarbonizing another part of the fleet, and integrating this with national shipbuilding.
- Develop bivalve mariculture with ZERO emissions and the generation of carbon credit. A blue bond is a financial instrument for issuing debt that aims to protect the oceans and marine ecosystems through their preservation. Through them, infrastructure for water treatment and management is put in place or measures are adopted to preserve marine biodiversity. Currently the blue bond market is in its early stages. According to the World Bank, until July 2022, there were 12 issues worth 2,856 million dollars, carried out in the last two years. The operations have been aimed at preserving the waters of the Indian Ocean, restructuring Belize's debt that includes environmental protection measures, increasing marine protected areas, generating environmentally sustainable aquaculture and improving water management. among others. The document 'Accelerating the issuance of blue bonds in Latin America and the Caribbean', prepared by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Global Compact, details the opportunities that exist in the issuance of blue bonds.
It would be an option to take into account for the government to consider the alternative of leaving aside the chapters referring to fishing in its 'Bill' as it is currently prepared and grant a deadline for the sector, together with the government, the opposition and specialists can work together to develop a superior proposal? Surely consensus and the positive energy necessary to carry it out in less than 12 months would be achieved!
As Albert Einstein said:
"Let's not expect things to change if we always do the same thing. The crisis is the best blessing that can happen to people and countries, because the crisis brings progress. Creativity is born from anguish as the day is born from the dark night. It is In the crisis, inventiveness, discoveries and great strategies are born. He who overcomes the crisis overcomes himself without being 'overcome'..."