Hundreds Of Ships Are Vanishing Off The Coast Of Argentina
Ship disappearances are always a cause for concern, and off the coast of Argentina, cases seem to be impacting the fishing industry.
The non-profit ocean conservation group Oceana has been tracking the activity of ships, and has found them disappearing off the coast of Argentina. However, these ships aren’t sinking into the depths, instead, they are thought to be illegally fishing.
Using Automatic Identification System (AIS) data from Global Fishing Watch (GFW), Oceana managed to track the activities of ships and also find out which country they belonged to. AIS should be on at all times on fishing ships, but it seems that some switched the system off while engaging in such activities.
Oceana managed to spot vessels that were illegally fishing and had some shocking results. Distant water fleets were reportedly responsible for 95% of the visible fishing activity in the area, and Chinese vessels made up 69% of these, with 400 ships. As a result, Chinese vessels have been described as ‘pillaging’ natural resources.
Korean, Spanish, and Taiwanese vessels conducted 26% of the other fishing, spending an estimated 251,000 hours catching marine life, a study of ships between January 1, 2018, and April 25, 2021, showed.
While many would not have an issue with countries fishing, the fact that this activity is unregulated and sees AIS gaps engaged is a worry for the fishing industry and the population of fish. Of the ships that had AIS gaps, 31% of them visited the Port of Montevideo, Uruguay. This port is believed to be a hub for illegal activity.
The large number of vessels engaging in illegal activity has alarmed Oceana and Dr Marla Valentine, Oceana’s illegal fishing and transparency campaign manager, has detailed the impact of Chinese ships:
Our oceans need protection, not reckless fishing from China and other distant water fleets. Fishing at this scale, under the radar, and without regard for laws and sustainability can have detrimental impacts on entire ecosystems, as well as the people and economies that depend on them.
This is just one example of how unregulated distant water fishing fleets can take advantage of a lack of transparency and enforcement at sea. It has become increasingly clear that Chinese commercial fishing interests are far reaching and have no boundaries; the world cannot afford to ignore the massive impacts of fleets like this on our oceans.
Oceana’s deputy vice president of US campaigns, Beth Lowell, noted the impact of the fishing:
Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing threatens the health of the oceans. The vessels that disappear along the edge of the national waters of Argentina could be pillaging its waters illegally.
IUU fishing is wreaking havoc on our oceans, coastal communities, and people who depend on the oceans for their livelihoods. A recent study found the United States imported an estimated $2.4 billion worth of seafood derived from IUU fishing in 2019.
On the back of these concerns, there have been requests for nation’s to take actions against those suspected of damaging the ecosystems in the ocean.
Lowell called for the US to take a stand: ‘The United States can take action to address IUU fishing by requiring that all seafood imports have catch documentation to demonstrate it was legally caught, implementing full-chain traceability, and making transparency a condition of import.’
Featured Image Credit: PA/Oceana USA
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