The undersecretary of Fisheries, Carlos Liberman in the Zoom (Photo: courtesy Revista Puerto)
'Agujero Azul', a Paper Marine Protected Area
Thursday, July 29, 2021, 02:20 (GMT + 9)
Its limits were limited to safeguard oil exploration concessions, there will be no control over the water column where fishing will be allowed and if the law is approved, the budget for its control, inspection and investigation will be cents per square kilometer.
The informative meeting of the 'Agujero Azul' Marine Protected Area (MPA) Bill, called by Congresswoman Graciela Camaño, allowed the author to hear the arguments for the designation of this space and its geographical limits. It was also possible to appreciate the degree of knowledge about international fishing of the director of Malvinas, Ambassador Daniel Filmus and the position of the Undersecretary of Fisheries, Carlos Liberman. The exhibitions were revealing in political rather than biological aspects and the only relevant one was that of Mercedes Santos, director of Marine Protected Areas of the Ministry of Development and Environment, who raised the implausibility of generating a large protection zone when today there is no budget to investigate or monitor already designated MPA.
Deputy Camano explained the reasons why the extension of the 'Agujero Azul' Marine Protected Area was determined, pointing out that the fact that the remains of the submarine ARA San Juan are found in that area, "gives great meaning to the initiative because somehow we fulfill the dream of the families ”.
On the other hand, when showing the candidate area, he indicated that it is not the same that had been demarcated in the original project (164 thousand square kilometers), but that it has been reduced to 148 thousand square kilometers, because the Ministry of Energy indicated the spaces on those who had been granted offshore exploration concessions, indicating "the cuts they should make for the 19 concessions granted."
Regarding the third highlighted point, the deputy referred to the percentage under protection of the Argentine Sea that is at 8.2% and pointing out that in 2020 based on international commitments it should have reached 10 percent, she said, “no we know how much the area is going to contribute because it is only the bottom of the sea that we are protecting, but in any case we see environmental benefits "
Referring to the fishing activity in that area in international waters, she indicated that “currently it is the scene of interests of the legal and illegal fishing activity, declared and undeclared, that we see on television. What is going to allow us to have control outside the 200 miles ”.
The fact that it is generating “a sanctuary” in the place where the submarine ARA San Juan imploded, which gives meaning to the designation of the Blue Hole as an MPA, is not related to the sustainability objectives that this type of protected areas should pursue. but it makes much less sense even if in the surrounding waters offshore exploration and oil exploitation have been prioritized.
Everything that can be said about the preservation of the biological wealth of the area of the slope that is intended to be closed does not sound serious. The fact that there is talk of controlling the fishing of the foreign fleet is not serious either when it is not possible to have interference on the activity of jigger vessels and longliners, since they do not affect the bottoms, the only space over which Argentina has jurisdiction to starting with the expansion of the continental shelf.
The Secretary of Malvinas, Daniel Filmus, enthusiastically congratulated the deputy and those who were co-authors of the Project (including Máximo Kirchner), saying that it is an issue “that has to do with the sovereignty and future of our country".
"What we are doing today has a lot to do with the international perspective on the South Atlantic, it calls our attention that the great powers are looking at the South Atlantic and we who have coastal territory have seen how with different perspectives, different countries aspire to illegal or unregulated fishing, through fishing subsidies to take away our resources, ”said Filmus.
Later, the deputy Gustavo Menna from Chubut asked him if he had contemplated the generation of some type of international conflict with those countries that have fishing fleets operating in this sector by prohibiting trawling.
The Secretary's response was a clear example of his ignorance on the subject. In an attempt to discredit the deputy, he gave a response that left him on the verge of ridicule: “We are aware that this is the case, there is a foreign power that is usurping Argentine territory and of course it has objected. We are not going to ask any power if we can legislate on our national territory. We don't have to ask the usurpers, ”he said, referring to Britain.
Deputy Menna replied that, of course, he was not referring to Great Britain and the Malvinas, but for example to Spain. On what the Chubut deputy did not get any response was on the complaint of the absence of planes in Patagonia to monitor Argentine waters: "In the fight against illegal fishing, in the Trelew air-naval base that knew there were 6 planes to patrol Today none of them work ”, he denounced.
From the Coordination of Pampa Azul, Carolina Vera sought to highlight the points related to the elements that can support this project, which she said was much discussed within the interdisciplinary scientific team.
In turn, the Undersecretary of Fisheries, Carlos Liberman, showed his full support for the project, arguing that, just as the Hake Ban helped to recover a fishing ground in crisis and the restrictive management measures on shrimp allowed to substantially increase catches, the Preserving this area could generate benefits in the fishing sector.
"The fleet, the workers, understood that it was for their good because they constituted tools that gave us the possibility of fishing better year after year," Liberman said, adding: "Our fleet, companies and workers already make an effort to have sea that offers us in a sustainable, sustainable way, the possibility of fishing and generating foreign exchange ”.
“The area that is intended to be protected cannot have a counterproductive effect for fishing in Argentina, nor for the resources that make up our main fisheries, quite the contrary. This project of the deputy will have an impact on the inside in our positive opinion, we interpret it as one more step. Our task is to have a sovereign strategy and vision and these are steps that are being taken to improve the previous situation ”, concluded the Undersecretary.
The area to be protected, as CONICET researcher Paulina Martinetto pointed out, can be seen as an oasis, a place to study and protect, because it is home to a large part of marine biodiversity. It is a region recognized as one of the most productive in biological terms of the world's oceans, which "has a primary importance under the effects of present and future climate change since it captures an enormous amount of carbon dioxide, which is one of the the main greenhouse gases and is the basis of the food web ”.
There are no doubts about the biological importance of the area to be protected and the possibilities of expanding knowledge is something that excites the scientific community, but the real possibilities of actually expanding scientific activity are not many as indicated by the Director of Areas. Protected Marinas of the Ministry of the Environment, Mercedes Santos, in what was the most interesting exhibition of the day.
“There may be many marine protected areas but the most important thing is the participation of the actors to strengthen the governance of these areas. One thing is that it is created by law and another that it is effectively implemented and this presupposes an important challenge for the country ”, indicated Mercedes Santos and stressed that it is important for society to understand that we are talking about the protection of the fund and not what is happening in the water column, “where there is freedom of navigation and fishing”, in reference to the expositions that tied the designation of the MPA to the fight against illegal fishing.
With a speech tied to reality, the Director suggested narrowing down the extension of the proposed area: “It is still necessary to establish where the benthic populations vulnerable to anthropic activities such as trawling are, and an area of this extension will be difficult to implement. . She pointed out that a smaller extension "allows the development and deepening of scientific knowledge in these areas and later expand it."
Regarding the monitoring and inspection of the MPA, a central point to guarantee its effectiveness, Santos warned: “For us it will be difficult and expensive to be able to properly control the area and to be able to distinguish the vessels that are fishing without committing an illegal act from those that yes they are. The creation of the MPA interests us, but we believe that a smaller area would allow us to strengthen our knowledge, strengthen ourselves in its monitoring and control, and subsequently move towards a larger area ”.
Closing her presentation, the Director of MPA addressed a neuralgic point of scientific activity that all politicians ponder, but do not attend, the allocation of an adequate budget that, as reported by Santos, in recent years has been drastically reduced.
"The MPA system in 2016 had a budget of 100 million pesos, which at the time was 8 million dollars and now our budget is 240 thousand dollars a year, this is less than 2 dollars per square kilometer, when in 2016 it was $ 270 per square kilometer. The creation of this MPA would limit our budget to cents and that is related to the effective implementation of MPAs, with not having a 'paper' MPA but effective ones, which is what interests us, protecting our resources and the sovereignty of the country”, Santos closed.
The hour and a half of the meeting left disappointments about those who promise to deepen in a second informative meeting, in which if possible the promoters of the project intend to obtain an opinion of the commission. Taking seriously the seriousness of the conflicts exposed by the Director of Marine Protected Areas seems to be the only thing that would save the 'Agujero Azul' MPA from becoming just a demagogic law that only used deputies to feel altruistic for a moment.
Author: Karina Fernandez / Revista Puerto (article available only in spanish)