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Squid fishing vessel 'Hau Li 8'. (Photo: Daniel Antunez)

Is Argentina on the verge of a new conflict with Uruguay?

Click on the flag for more information about Argentina ARGENTINA
Monday, March 07, 2016, 21:40 (GMT + 9)

An illegal fishing boat escaped after being chased by members of the Argentine Naval Prefecture (PNA), and took refuge later in Uruguayan waters.

The Chinese fishing vessel Hua Li 8 was surprised on Monday February 29 by the Argentine Navy when it was illegally fishing within 200 miles of the EEZ. The ship managed to escape to international waters and days later was detected when it was about to enter the port of Montevideo, after crossing again the Argentine Sea.

Two Coast Guard boats and a helicopter of the Argentine Naval Force were sent in pursuit of the pirate squid fishing boat.

According to what informed FIS.com Marine Conservation expert Milko Schvartzman, just before entering the port of Montevideo, the boat changed course and headed out of the area of binational jurisdiction of the river Rio de la Plata, to Punta del Este.

When the fishing boat was practically within the 12 miles of the territorial sea of Uruguay, Argentine ships stopped the pursuit, as it can be seen through the satellite images provided by Schvartzman.

Last part of the chase of the 'Hau Li 8' (L) and the coast guard vessel 'Mantilla' following the Chinese squid fishing boat. 

In a note sent to FIS.com, the expert informed that according to the newspaper reports published in Uruguay, the events took a different hue, and were more dramatic (*1):

'An aircraft of the naval aviation of our country warned the two Argentine ships and the helicopter of Prefecture that they could not go through that limit, which was immediately understood by the commanders of the three ships, who changed their attitude' ...

'The injured crew member was a person who was hit by shrapnel from bullets that were fired from the ships of Armada Argentina in order to persuade the crew of the fishing vessel.'

'The ship was almost in front of Montevideo when the incident was reported.'

Crew members under slave conditions in Montevideo

Argentine news did not inform on the injured crew member due to an attempt to express persuasion through guns or that Uruguay has banned Argentine vessels to continue the pursuit.

"Although it sounds surprising, dozens of pirate, illegal ships, or as it is internationally called ‘IUU’ (illegal, unregulated and unreported) are supplied and logistically supported in the port of Montevideo," emphasizes Schvartzman.

"The Hua Li 8 is part of a fleet having five ships 'Hua Li' operating in the South Atlantic, among hundreds of pirate ships of Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese, Spanish or British (Falklands) nationality, which all these flags have in common is that many of their vessels, use Montevideo as a logistics base, as a source of supplies and to launder illegal catches."

"What is exceptional in this case is that the persecution occurs in Uruguayan water, a clear message from the Government of Argentina to Tabare Vazquez," points out the Marine Conservation expert.

He adds: "Many of these boats, not only enter illegally to fish within the EEZ of the States, but their crew is enslaved and survive under extreme unsanitary conditions, poor nutrition, and violence on board."

"For over a decade, all kinds of complaints are regularly recorded as well as killings of crew members of fishing boats frequently visiting Uruguay (*2). It also occurs near the Falklands, where every year, victims of human trafficking jump into the frozen southern waters in an attempt to escape the abuse on board, often losing their lives in the attempt."

"There are plenty of records of vessels that have illegally fished in the Argentine Sea, and days later they restock in Montevideo to plunder the South Atlantic again."

The 'Hau Li 8' fishing in the South Atlantic, on February 16 2016, and in Punta Arenas (Chile), on December 14, 2015.

Schvartzman also notes that today, the Insung 3, a Korean fishing vessel, which in 2014 was fined by his own government for illegal fishing within the EEZ of Argentina with the Insung 7, which was dismantled as punishment for the same offense, is being refueled together with boats from Buquebus.

"Many of these vessels have not only violated international law but they have been convicted in other latitudes, as is the case of the Oyang 75 and Oyang 77, which were seized by the Government of New Zealand for overfishing, slavery and abusing crew members on board. In the case of the Insung, Playa de Pesmar Dos, from Spain, which has license from the Falklands and was denounced of committing labour abuse in 2010, as the Tong Young No. 808, which was caught in the waters of the Argentine EEZ in 2014," recalls Schvartzman.

He also stresses that the list of vessels engaged in furtive fishing or with licenses from the Falklands that are supplied in the port of Montevideo is very long.

"The vessels fishing in the Southwest Atlantic, are not regulated in any way, from an environmental, or labour, or health and safety to sail. Their capture is predatory, their waste and pollutants are thrown overboard, as well as their crew in case of a conflict on board. They are pirate ships, literally, which launder their illegal catch in the port of Montevideo, from which it is then exported to markets in Europe or the United States, at half the price of regulated catches," he says.

Satellite photo of the squid fishing fleet.

According to Schvartzman, "during the peak of the fishing season, a floating city of about 400 boats, predate the Region, not only affecting the marine ecosystem through the capture of key species in the oceanic food chain, but they also affect the jobs of regional fisheries, regulated in the environmental, labour and safety aspects, despite their shortcomings ".

In his view, "beyond what is condemnable, the fact that Uruguay will benefit from millions of dollars from human trafficking, slavery and pillaging of the South Atlantic also seriously affect fishing economies and employment throughout the region, even in Uruguay, where local fishermen can not compete against Asian vessels whose fuel is subsidized, and do not meet any environmental, safety regulations or labour regulations.”

"This situation is much more serious than the resonant conflict over the installation of the pulp mill on the river shared by both countries. If a resolution is not taken by both governments, a more serious incident will end up bursting," he predicts.

Finally, he adds that as the article in La Nación, 'Uruguayans failed to offer positive assistance' (* 3).
 

(*1) http://www.teledoce.com/telemundo/policiales/dos-buques-de-la-armada-argentina-persiguieron-a-un-pesquero-chino-en-aguas-uruguayas/

(*2) http://www.teledoce.com/telemundo/nacionales/cancilleria-denuncio-esclavitud-racismo-y-discriminacion/

(*3) http://www.lanacion.com.ar/1876569-prefectura-persiguio-a-un-buque-chino-pescaba-dentro-de-la-zona-economica-argentina 


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