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Milko Schvartzman

Milko Schvartzman has been Oceans Campaigner at Greenpeace International for 15 years.

Contributing at the UN Working Group on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction, Rio+20 Summit, and at the International Whaling Commission.

Actually working as freelancer for specific environmental projects.


The tragedy of the South West Atlantic. Slavery and overfishing.
Tuesday, June 02, 2015

A solution for the outrageous South West Atlantic fishery.

More than 400 IUU fishing vessels operate in a small region of rich and unique biodiversity.

Not any of those vessels comply with any labour, safety, nor environmental regulation; it's just like the hell representation for the Oceans.

The pillaging fleet is composed by about 190 Chinese vessels, 85 Taiwanese, 75 South Korean, 40 Spanish (swinging the 'Falklands' and Spain flag according to the situation), about 15 Panamanian (mostly FOC reefers), the rest, a few from Cambodia, Vanuatu, St. Vincent the Bahamas...

Added to the flag states, there are three other nations directly involved on the illegal catch bleaching and logistics: Uruguay, through the Port of Montevideo, well known as being an IUU Port, Britain, through the Falklands/Malvinas licensing program, and Chile, through Punta Arenas Port.

Britain, through the Falklands/Malvinas administration sells fishing licences to 150 of the fleet, for operating mostly on international waters, the only requirement to get this licence, is to pay, there is not any control of any kind, usually some of them got caught illegally inside Argentina EEZ.

In their desperate intention to escape the terrible labour conditions, crewmember use to jump, or being thrown overboard, at an average of 3 times per year, only according to official public reports. There is an estimate of 4000 slaves being exploited for UK profit under Falklands/Malvinas licences (http://www.maritimelaw.co.nz).

As a crewmember from a Korean IUU vessel that operates under British licence makes puts it on a video interview: "we dumped fish and rubbish freely no sense of hesitance at dumping at all...dirty oil is dumped at sea directly from the bilge...in the Falklands we did it secretly" (https://youtu.be/8E9Xs_2Q5vY).

After a two years research, based on satellite tracking, different intelligence sources, every vessel was identified, and its black history of overfishing and slavery is now revealed, the situation is really shocking!

Not any of the vessels comply with any regulation, human trafficking and murder is part of the day to day operation, garbage, damaged nets and oil dumping, is at will and anytime, there is not any accountability for the catch: not for the species, not any season, not age, nor area of fishing, not fishing arts.

The Falklands/Malvinas Fishing Authority has just 7 observers on board, not operating at same time.

The impacts on the ecosystem are tremendous, also knowing that squid is the main catch and is crucial the whole ecosystem health, being key source of food for many species as dolphins, birds, seals, whales and other fish species as hake. This huge IUU fleet also targets the highly endangered Patagonian Toothfish.

A recent example of the kind of vessels that operate under British licences, is the case of the Oyang 75 and Oyang 77, operating from Port Stanley/Puerto Argentino, last April, and Montevideo.

Both of them are Forfeited by the Government of New Zealand because of false catch declarations and endangered species by-catch, sentenced in court for not paying to their crew, and if this is not enough, denounced for torture, rape and slavery on board (http://www.stuff.co.nz).

This is just one case, amongst about 100 IUU vessels identified that operates under British licence from the Falklands/Malvinas: from slavery and murder on board, to drug trafficking, there is a huge spectrum of the nastiest violations of Human Rights to the worst fishing practices that can be imagined. The list is quite extense for this article space.

The only difference between the licenced ones and the non licenced is a piece of paper bought to Britain, that helps to bleach the catch, but there is not any environmental, labour, nor safety regulation imposed to them.

Murder, slavery and destructive fishing pays the bill.

If politics interests and short-term corporate profit are going to be the drive of the discussion, this will end as another 'tragedy of the commons' for the oceans des-governance.

If the discussion is to be based taking into account science, a precautionary approach, and the foregoing worsened situation, the answer is clear: closing the fishery.

If some fishing is to be done inside EEZs, and/or claimed EEZs, it must be exclusively to local fishing companies, with local labour, and, at least, in compliance with the international UN-FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, avoiding societies with IUU vessels and/or companies, all landings at port, and the whole activity to be open to public scrutiny, transparency.

The only solution to start protecting the South West Atlantic, and for all the oceans, is by closing all fishing at high seas.

Science just addressed the need for closing fishing on the high seas: 'Winners and losers in a world where the high seas is closed to fishing' http://www.nature.com/

It is the time for science to be heard in the South West Atlantic, since human lives and ocean health wasn't a loud voice for decision makers for decades.

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