“Nation officials linked to fishing seem not to understand that fishing in the conditions that is being carried out on the high seas is illegal and they confuse the recognition of this illegality with the difficulties to take action and put an end to it”; warns South Atlantic and Fisheries expert César Lerena.

3 de June de 2024 09:25

Argentina lacks policies to eradicate illegal domestic fishing and that of foreign vessels that carry out illegal fishing within the limits of 200 nautical miles and on the high seas.

Illegal fishing affects the ecosystem and with it, the fishing resources of the maritime coastal provinces. Argentina has an Exclusive Economic Zone of 3,757,124 km2, within which, some 520 vessels authorized by the Nation that capture about 800 thousand tons annually; This, despite the potential of the southwest Atlantic of about 1.7 million tons of fish and squid (FAO, Area 41 Atlantic, 2022). which are mostly extracted by Spanish-British, Chinese, Korean and Taiwanese vessels, without any political or diplomatic action on the part of the national government, with obvious biological damage to the ecosystem and provincial economies. The FAO estimates that at least 30% of catches are illegal, generating about 36 billion dollars annually (FAO, 2016, p 05-06) irregularly and unfair competition with those who fish and market in compliance with the rules. National and international.

Illegal Fishing is understood as "fishing species that are captured without complying, in whole or in part, with the international or national regulation of origin and/or without official or independent control and/or if it is captured on the high seas without State control." of pavilion; without determining the Maximum Sustainable Yield” and without prior agreement between it and the coastal States in those species that interact or are associated or are migratory originating from the Exclusive Economic Zone or migrate from the high seas to the EEZ; where any act, of any nature, is carried out that threatens the sustainability of fishing species and/or contaminates the environment and/or threatens food and economic security, benefiting transnational organized crime and/or tax evasion. Illegal fishing is generally understood as all those practices that directly or indirectly threaten the sustainability of species; the sustainability of companies and sources of work or the development of the regions of the Argentine maritime coast» (César Lerena “Fishing. Appropriation and predation. Ed. Proyecto Sur, 2014) .

In general terms and subject to review arising from the circumstances in which national, regional and/or international laws are violated; the effective damage they cause to the sustainability of species, the marine environment and less developed countries, etc. We could say that some of the following practices would be involved in illegal fishing, because it is very likely that they affect the ecosystem and/or appropriate resources that could be assigned to other fishermen and/or affect the economy of less developed towns and their workers. . Among them, fishing without permission in the territorial sea, the contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone and on the extended continental shelf; capture on the high seas without meeting the requirements of their flag States and without agreement with coastal States; capture straddling, migratory or associated species on the high seas without Agreements; captures and/or landings not recorded in non-authorized ports; carry out unsustainable fishing; prey, discard incidental or non-commercial fishing;  cause damage from fishing; fish for juveniles, of reduced sizes and weights; use unauthorized networks; capture in restricted or closed areas; capture at prohibited times and with an unauthorized fishing speed; have illegal fishing products; use flag of convenience; proceed without good manufacturing practices; appropriate fishing resources from third parties; prevent the needs of developing States; produce marine pollution, resources and people; violate labor or safety laws; fishing in invaded or disputed areas; not cooperating in fishing; carry out contraventions to Fishing operations and records; market non-certified products; fishing surpluses without authorization; lack satellite tracking systems or have them inactive; carry out non-responsible fishing; carry out non-peaceful acts at sea and/or Piracy. hinder the tasks of inspectors or observers.

National officials linked to fishing seem not to understand that fishing in the conditions that is being carried out on the high seas is illegal and they confuse the recognition of this illegality with the difficulties to take action and put an end to it, and this leads them to do nothing about it, to the detriment of the resources of the Provinces and Argentina, since a volume greater than all Argentine landings are lost on the high seas. And it is illegal, because Argentina could not consider legal the capture on the high seas of its migratory resources originating from the territorial sea, the contiguous zone and the exclusive economic zone, and the associated species that intervene in the food chain; in principle, because it would be to ignore the rights that it claims as its own in all its current legislation: article 5 of law 23,968 on maritime spaces and baselines; article 2 inc. c of Law 24,543 ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and articles 4, 5d, 21e, 22 and 23b of Law 24,922, on Fisheries. And even worse, they tried to foreignize the Argentine sea and establish the RIGI that will denationalize the national industry and concentrate activity even more. 

In addition to this, although there are more than forty reasons to consider this capture on the high seas as “Illegal Fishing”; Three facts are sufficient to classify it as such: first, when ships do not have control of their flag States or countries of origin (articles 87, 92 and 94 of UNCLOS) ; second, when research studies are not carried out to determine the “Maximum Sustainable Catch” (article 119 of UNCLOS) and, third, when migratory species originating from the EEZ are captured on the high seas without an agreement with the coastal State, affecting its interests ( articles 27º; 63º, 64º, 116º to 119º of UNCLOS) . Of course, this is added when fishing with bottom trawl nets without Argentine authorization on the extended Argentine continental shelf beyond 200 miles without national authorization (César Lerena “National Fishing Plan. One Hundred Actions, Effects and Law of Fishing, 2023) .

Brazil , in Article 3 of Decree 4,810 of 8/19/2003, when referring to highly migratory species, indicates that the appropriate, rational and convenient use of these fishing resources is necessary; understanding the special protection that must be carried out when species are migratory to ensure sustainability.

Chile establishes that it may establish conservation and management standards on those common populations or associated species existing in the EEZ and on the high seas and that it may prohibit or regulate the landing of catches or derived products, when these have been obtained in contravention of said standards. (Law 19,079, Art.1, No. 154) and, that the provisions indicate that it may be extended with respect to highly migratory species and, that it is evident, that fishing on the high seas by vessels without control of the flag States and without an agreement with the coastal State, it causes damage to the ecosystem and consequently to the EEZ.

Colombia , in Article 33 of Law 13 of January 15, 1990, establishes regulations aimed at ensuring that large processing vessels flagged by Colombia capture on the high seas and compete with foreign vessels in that area by extracting migratory resources originating from the EEZ or those from the high seas that migrate to the EEZ.

Costa Rica , Law 8,436 prescribes that within the country's EEZ and in the areas adjacent to the latter through agreements that allow comprehensive sustainable fishing to be achieved on the high seas and the EEZ.

In Ecuador, Article 4 of the Organic Law for the development of Aquaculture and Fisheries (4/14/2020) expresses that the Fisheries Ecosystem Approach (EEP) is a new direction for fisheries administration, where not only the exploited resource but also the also to the ecosystem, including the ecological interdependencies between the species and their relationship with the environment and the socioeconomic aspects linked to the activity and, this indicates that it is not possible to provide sustainability to the fishing resources in the EEZ without comprehensive attention to the migratory species throughout their migratory range, to the associated species that intervene in the food chain, taking into account the migratory resources originating from the EEZ cannot be lost due to the sole fact that the species migrate to the high seas in their biological process and, the article 145º defines with precision and simplicity what an “illegal fishing product” is: “They are fishing resources obtained by vessels that have contravened national and international laws and regulations…”

In Guatemala , the General Law of Fisheries and Aquaculture (Decree No. 80-2002) establishes that in commercial fishing it is essential to apply the criterion of comprehensive use using methods and systems to achieve the benefit of the accompanying fauna (and) the fish or fauna of accompaniment, coming from the vessels dedicated to catching tuna.

In Honduras , the law is applicable in "the land and maritime spaces of the national territory, in the high seas spaces where the State of Honduras holds rights; that, although it is not specified throughout the law, it should be referring to the administration of migratory resources originating from the EEZ on the high seas (Article 4 of the General Law of Fisheries and Aquaculture. Decree 106-2015).

Mexico, in Article 17 of the General Law on Sustainable Fishing and Aquaculture, reformed in 2018, recognizes that fishing is an activity that strengthens the food and territorial sovereignty of the nation, which are matters of national security and are a priority for national planning. development and comprehensive management of fishing resources.

Panama, in Article 8 of the Fisheries Law, Decree No. 204 (3/18/2021) indicates that the Enforcement Authority will exercise its management taking into account general principles of the fishing sector and refers, among others, to prevention to reduce or mitigate possible negative effects, to apply an ecosystem approach that implies "an integrated vision of management of lands, waters and living resources that aims to preserve and sustainably use them in an equitable manner (and) includes the analysis of all processes, functions and interactions between the components and resources of the ecosystem, and involves the management of species and other ecosystem services and goods; That is to say, in practice, much attention should be paid to the capture of migratory resources originating from the EEZ on the high seas, to carry out the ecosystem approach proposed.

The Dominican Republic, in its Fisheries Law 307-04 (2004), understands that it is the duty of the State to protect, conserve and regulate the exploitation of aquatic biological resources to satisfy the food needs of the population and special attention must also be paid to the aspects related to the integrated management of coastal zones and the interconnection of these with transboundary areas.

Article 1 of Law 19,175 of Uruguay "recognizes that fishing is an activity that strengthens the territorial and food sovereignty of the nation" and signed in 1973 together with Argentina the Treaty of the Río de la Plata and its Marine Front where both manage fishing resources in a Common Zone made up of the fishing resources of the EEZs of these countries, in a bilateral agreement model that could serve to bilaterally manage fishing resources from neighboring countries and protect themselves from illegal fishing by flag States; 

Venezuela in Article 12 of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Law (8/7/2003) indicates that it will ensure the protection of fishing and its related activities, nationally and internationally, as well as the incorporation and permanence of Venezuelan fishing vessels in the fishing zones located outside the aquatic spaces under its sovereignty or jurisdiction and will harmonize the regional management of highly migratory organisms and hydrobiological resources that are found both in the aquatic spaces under its sovereignty or jurisdiction, and in the areas adjacent to she.

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), whose main axes are the care of the marine environment and the sustainability of species, could not consider fishing in violation of international laws a peaceful action; no conservation agreements; without declaring or doing so inaccurately the operations; without control of catches and transshipments on the high seas. Likewise, without unobjectionable observers and inspectors; receiving subsidies; using mesh nets that do not release juveniles; discarding at sea; overexploiting; using flags of convenience to evade penalties; capturing migratory resources without taking into account the needs of less developed States and/or affecting the economies of coastal fishing States; polluting the sea; carrying out activities with slave labor or without applying the labor laws of the International Labor Organization and the Human Rights Convention; fishing without establishing Maximum Sustainable Catches; fishing for resources by intercepting and preventing the migratory cycle of the species; carrying out practices that threaten the sustainability of fishing resources and responsible fishing practices.

This Convention has precisely defined the scope of maritime spaces and indicates that: "the problems of marine spaces are closely related to each other and must be considered as a whole" and that, in addition, an "equitable and efficient use of its resources, the study, protection and preservation of the marine environment and the conservation of its living resources. All of this, contributing "to the realization of a just and equitable international economic order that takes into account the interests and needs of all humanity and, in particular, the special interests and needs of developing countries."

In 2001 , the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) adopted the International Plan of Action (IPOA) to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal Fishing (IUU-IUU). This “continues to constitute one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems due to its powerful capacity to undermine national and regional efforts for sustainable fisheries management, as well as marine biodiversity conservation initiatives. Illegal fishing (IUU-IUU) takes advantage of corrupt administrations and implements weak management regimes, especially those in developing countries that lack the capacity and resources to carry out monitoring, control and surveillance ( effective MCS” (FAO 2016 I6069ES/1/10.16). The Administration of all the fishing resources of a country, concentrated in the decision of very few people, as is the case of the Federal Fisheries Council of Argentina, can promote not only the appropriation of provincial migratory resources, but also the corrupt practices that refer the FAO and, by the way, inability or to reduce illegal fishing.

The European Union (2008); the largest market and main importer of fishing products on the planet, including Argentines (two thirds of Spain's imports are from Argentina), considered that it has the duty to adopt appropriate measures to ensure the sustainable management of marine resources. and to cooperate with each other to that end. Illegal fishing is one of the greatest threats to the sustainable exploitation of living aquatic resources and undermines the very foundations of the common fisheries policy and international efforts to achieve better governance of the seas.

The European Union Regulation considers illegal fishing (IUU-IUU) a particularly serious infringement of the legislative, normative and regulatory provisions, since it undermines the achievement of the objectives of the violated standards and endangers the sustainability of the stocks. of affected fish or the conservation of the marine environment, considering “illegal, unreported or unregulated (IUU-IUU) fishing”; among others, those carried out with fishing vessels that fly the flag of States that fish in contravention of the conservation and management measures adopted by said organization and by virtue of which the States are obliged or, the relevant provisions of applicable international law or, carried out in areas or in relation to fish stocks for which there are no applicable conservation or management measures and where such fishing activities are carried out in a manner that is not in line with responsibilities for the conservation of marine resources living things that are the responsibility of States under international law.

The European Union, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States since 2014 consider illegal fishing a matter of National Security. China and Russia, without declaring it, operate in that sense.

Argentina lacks policies to eradicate illegal internal fishing and that of foreign vessels that carry out illegal fishing within the limits of 200 nautical miles and on the high seas, on the extended continental shelf and the waters of the Malvinas on the migratory resources originated in national and Argentine waters.


Dr. A.S. Caesar August Lerena.

Expert in South Atlantic and Fisheries - Former Secretary of State.

President Center for Studies for Latin American Fisheries (CESPEL) - June 2, 2024                                                          

By Agenda Malvinas


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