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Uruguay wants to work with Argentina and Brazil to protect migratory fish populations

Click on the flag for more information about Uruguay URUGUAY
Wednesday, April 07, 2021, 21:00 (GMT + 9)

The following is an excerpt from an article published by China Dialogue:

The government wants to form a regional front to tackle overfishing by foreign fleets on the borders of national waters

The Southwest Atlantic Ocean attracts fishing fleets from all over the world due to rich marine life that swims beyond national waters. But despite concerns of overfishing, the region lacks the kind of fishing management organisation or governance system present in many other regions of the world.

Uruguay, with a new government since last year, is seeking to change this.

Fishing fleets from China, Taiwan, South Korea and Spain concentrate in waters near the outer limit of the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. They are in search of squid and other species and will often stop at the Uruguayan port of Montevideo.

Fishing vessels operating outside the Argentine and Uruguayan EEZ anchored in the port of Montevideo

The number of vessels on both sides of the South American continent has grown steadily over the past two decades, leading to disputes with the authorities. In Ecuador, Chinese vessels were accused of illegal fishing last year. While the government of Argentina captured three vessels illegally fishing in its waters.

This has fuelled the argument for a regional initiative to regulate fishing activity in areas beyond EEZs, which could help to establish catch limits, closed fishing seasons and reserves, and make it possible to keep a proper record of fishing activity and its legality.

As it moves into the second year of President Luis Lacalle Pou’s administration, Uruguay is seeking to advance such an initiative. This fits with the government’s announcement last year of new marine protected areas that would cover 10% of the nation’s waters.

Movement of the Chinese jigging fleet that operates squid in the Pacific and South Atlantic


Jaime Coronel, Uruguay’s national director of aquatic resources, told China Dialogue Ocean that the country has been in talks with Brazil since last year over the creation of a regional fisheries management organisation (RFMO). “It’s essential to have a system of control in the region, just like the ones that exist in other parts of the world,” he argued.

RFMOs exist in most areas of the high seas with large fisheries or complex ecosystems. They facilitate cooperation between governments and help improve the prospects of species under continuous fishing pressure, such as tuna and swordfish. They are responsible for assessing resources, monitoring vessels and adopting conservation measures, among other things. Many have powers to manage resources according to an “ecosystem approach”. There are two RFMOs specifically for tuna covering the Atlantic Ocean. But there is no RFMO for other species overseeing the Southwest Atlantic.

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), countries have an obligation to cooperate on conserving ocean life on the high seas, and to develop management measures if they are exploiting the same resources as other countries. States are even requested to establish regional fisheries organisations.

Please click on the link at the bottom of the article you can see the map activated in the original full article

This is especially relevant given RFMOs have the potential to protect biodiversity, and countries have been negotiating a landmark global deal known as the BBNJ (biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction) – though the last BBNJ session, in 2020, was delayed by the pandemic.

Coastal states in the Southwest Atlantic have not agreed on any management and governance formula for international waters, nor have they organised to prevent foreign fleets in waters adjacent to national jurisdictions from taking advantage of fish and squid there.

Coronel said Uruguay’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been in talks with Brazil on creating a Southwest Atlantic RFMO, which in turn raised the idea within Mercosur, the customs union comprising Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. However, Coronel warned that all countries would have to agree if the idea is to move forward.

The world's regional fisheries management organizations RFMOs (Source FAO) | By clicking on the link at the bottom of the article you can see the map activated in the original full article

"Countries must organise themselves to regulate catches outside national waters."

According to Coronel, at the last meeting of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Committee on Fisheries, in February, Argentina said it was not willing to negotiate on the RFMO, but would be if the model were different. The country has not yet proposed an alternative governance system for areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Coronel explained that Uruguay will not hold talks with Argentina for another month or so. This is in part to give Argentina the chance to come up with alternatives to the RFMO. (continues...)

Author: Sabina Goldaracena / China Dialogue | Read the full article by clicking the link here



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