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Fishing in South Georgia

CCAMLR discussed UK fishing in the Georgias area

Friday, December 09, 2022, 07:00 (GMT + 9)

The Antarctic resources convention debated in Australia about the impossibility of setting a quota for toothfish due to Russian opposition and the capture of the species in that area by the English fleet outside the rules of the international treaty. Argentina made a strong claim and proposed a campaign, but it only had Russian support. There was no consensus.

At the annual conference of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR): Germany, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Spain, United States, Russia, France, India, Italy, Japan, Norway , New Zealand, Poland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Korea, China, South Africa, Sweden, Ukraine, the European Union and Uruguay, discussed, among other issues, the capture of toothfish in the management area surrounding the South Georgia Islands ( called Subarea 48.3). Patagonian toothfish must be managed under international parameters and in freely accessible waters such as those that are in dispute, in this case between Great Britain and Argentina, it is CCAMLR that sets the annual quotas and oversees their management. In 2022, a quota could not be established because Russia considered the scientific information insufficient and since a number of tons could not be established by consensus, fishing in said area was not authorized. However, Great Britain through quotas granted by the Malvinas to four boats fished all year. Argentina and Russia requested that these vessels be included in the Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated (IUU) fishing list. The obstacle imposed by Russia and the actions of the English generated a strong debate that was reflected in the minutes of the conference.

Source: Antártida | Georgia | Falkland/Malvinas | Argentina | The Polar Travel Company

One of the first countries to take the floor was Ukraine and installed as a starting point Russia's decision to block the operation of CCAMLR: "It is a fact that the toothfish fishery in Subarea 48.3 has been blocked by the Russian Federation ”, they expressed and recalled that no CCAMLR member agreed with Russia's arguments. In addition, it was noted that most experts acknowledged that the Russian intervention on this issue "appears to be a political action, technically carried out by blocking consensus."

He went on to call on Russia to take “its share of responsibility for raising this issue that damaged CCAMLR unity” and said that “a typical IUU fishery seeking commercial profit from illegal fishing actions cannot be compared to the case of UK fishing vessels conducting managed fishing in Subarea 48.3 in line with the main CCAMLR approaches, with regular reporting”.

Argentina immediately took the floor and recalled that "the behavior of a Member should never lead another Member to act outside the rules" and that "the United Kingdom was the only Member that proceeded to carry out fishing activities without a conservation measure".

Argentina assured that, as of the issuance of the regulation that regulates the fishery, no member is allowed to catch in the Georgias area without a catch limit and that was what the United Kingdom did last season. It also communicated that it requested the capture reports from that country, but did not receive them and that it asked the Commission not to allow the capture of the British fleet but that said request was not considered.

South Georgias fishing vessels satellital position courtesy of Marine Traffic -->

The CCAMLR Secretary responded that they do not have the capacity to satisfy the request made by Argentina and that this would require a decision by the Commission. In response, the Argentine delegate regretted the decision adopted and warned that "if this situation continues, there is a risk of returning to the legal situation in force in the 1960s and 1970s, not only in Subarea 48.3, but in the entire area of the Convention, thus drastically frustrating the progress achieved so far in the management of Antarctic marine living resources.

For its part, Norway pointed out that the fact that Russia had prevented setting a maximum catch does not lead to a fishing ban, since if so it should be established by means of a conservation measure. They argued that the non-renewal of the toothfish quota in Georgias does not mean that fishing is "prohibited or closed, as some parties have suggested."

The Norwegians affirmed that not renewing the quota represents a failure of the Commission to fulfill the mandates established in 1987 on the management of the species, but that it is a political body that decides for itself if it wishes to exercise its competence, in this case by renewing the quotas. measures in question. Failure to comply with this renewal "is deeply regrettable, but it does not lead to a fishing ban," they argued, while rejecting the inclusion of British vessels on an IUU fishing list, for these reasons.

The United Kingdom, a co-protagonist in this situation, pointed out that it is “a very sensitive issue that has been brought into this Commission by Russia's behaviour. Behavior with which they persist. Today within CCAMLR their focus is on the UK; tomorrow it could be in any other”, they pointed out; and they rejected "the characterization of the situation by Russia and Argentina."

Source: CCAMLR

Argentina introduced the issue of the Malvinas dispute into the discussion and the rest of the Members regretted that this point was returned to, noting that it had already been discussed on several occasions. For its part, the United Kingdom, contrary to the assertions of our delegate, reaffirmed its position indicating "that it has no doubts about its sovereignty over the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and their surrounding maritime areas, which is well known to all delegates.

Russia, the other protagonist of this story, requested, like Argentina, the inclusion of the United Kingdom vessels Argos Georgia, Argos Helena, Nordic Prince and Polar Bay in the list of IUU fishing vessels, saying that the action was "of an outrageous illegality” noting that the UK response “appears to be part of a pattern of behavior to ignore the CCAMLR legal framework”.

The European Union expressed concern about Russia's approach, since as a Member of this Convention it is committed to the principle of using the best available science to conserve Antarctic marine living resources. "However, Russia has repeatedly ignored scientific information provided to inform key management decisions to achieve political objectives," they sentenced.

Source: CCAMLR

"Russia's repeated rejection of the best available scientific information amounts to an abuse of its commitment to participate in consensus-based decision-making," they said from the EU, and made "a call on Russia to return to its approach to work with other members in good faith and in a spirit of collaboration, and to respect the principle of science-based decision-making and the ecosystem approach that underpins the work of CCAMLR”.

The United States, which in 2022, after denouncing the incident, prevented the entry of Patagonian toothfish caught by British vessels into its market, regretted that the Commission was unable to handle this situation and criticized Russia for its position: "CCAMLR has always has managed this fishery based on caution and sound science. This fishery is now a source of division between like-minded nations due to a Russian conservation objection that is not supported by the Scientific Committee of this body."

Maintaining Russia in its position of not approving a quota for 2023, from Argentina it was proposed to carry out a scientific research campaign in Subarea 48.3, with the objective of studying the populations of Patagonian toothfish, and providing members with relevant data that can contribute to find a scientific solution to the problem. The only support that Argentina received, as stated in the minutes, was from Russia. Great Britain rejected the offer and the other members did not decide on the matter.

Source: CCAMLR / FAO

Despite this, INIDEP has been working for a few months on the design of the campaign and the Foreign Ministry's order is to go ahead and finalize the cruise. In principle, there would be no reason for CCAMLR to prohibit it, but in the midst of this controversy, with more political than biological overtones, anything is possible.

Closing this issue, the CCAMLR leadership pointed out that open cooperation and collaboration have been its strength, but that now it is holding back its progress. "Countries that have prioritized their individual needs have weakened our ability to meet the shared conservation objectives on which this body was founded" and concluded, before communicating the lack of agreement on this point, that "this fishery is now a source of division between like-minded nations due to a Russian conservation objection that does not have the support of the Scientific Committee of this body”.

Without an agreement in 2023 there will also be no catch quota for toothfish in the Georgian Islands area. There is nothing to suggest that the United Kingdom will not fish again, much less after the result of this Conference in which it did not receive any punishment for having violated a rule of the agreement. On the other hand, the almost unanimous view that Russian interference is unjustified and has a political overtone rather than a biological one ends up endorsing the unilateral decision of the British.

Source: Revista Puerto

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