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Squid Poaching

April 4, 2013

In this March 14, 2013 photo, workers offload fish from a fishing ship in Port Stanley, Falklands Islands. Fish are suffering from the fight between Argentina and the Falkland Islands. Scientists say the western South Atlantic Ocean claimed by both governments is the only place in the world where scientists don’t jointly manage their shared seas. As a result, unlicensed boats are able to scoop up vast quantities of squid and other species. Photo: Paul Byrne

Wherever there is a loophole or a vacuum, the poachers will go. And with Argentina and the Falkands failing to cooperate on fisheries management, there is a fishing fleet so large its lights can be seen from space working the area and clearing the ocean of squid:

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — It was a rare victory in the squid wars: Argentina’s coast guard cutter Thompson fired warning shots at two Chinese trawlers, blocking their escape into international waters. Ten tons of squid were found in the holds of the Lu Rong Yu 6177 and 6178 after they were hauled into port on Christmas Day.

But this was just the first such capture in two years, a minor disturbance to the hundreds of unlicensed, unregulated fishing vessels that exploit the South Atlantic, pulling out an estimated 300,000 tons of ilex squid a year.

The species, which roams across the maritime boundary between Argentina and the Falkland Islands, is key to a food chain that sustains penguins, seals, birds and whales. Managed well, it could sustain a vigorous fishing industry and steady revenues for both governments.

But the two sides aren’t even talking.

Argentina pulled out of a fisheries management organization it had shared with Falklands in 2005. The lack of cooperation has left both sides ill-equipped to deal with the fleet scooping up squid just beyond their maritime boundaries, and sometimes within.

“It’s like the Wild West out there,” said Milko Schvartzman, who campaigns against overfishing for Greenpeace International. “There are more than 200 boats out there all the time,” and many routinely follow squid into Argentina’s economic exclusion zone, he added. “Unfortunately the Argentine government doesn’t have the naval capacity to continually control this area.”

This is just another example of how the inability of nations and fishing interests to work together to manage fishing resources drives fish populations toward disaster. I continue to think that the only way the oceans can truly be managed successfully is on a global basis (with fishing fleets regulated on a global basis no matter where they are fishing), and with all the oceans’s resources being managed as universal resources, and not just for coastal states or states with the naval power to assert sovereignty.

Yes, it is unlikely that coastal nations will surrender their claims. But the existing national model they are protecting is a complete failure.

In this NASA Earth Observatory image made available by NASA on March 22, 2013, the southern tip of South America is seen at night in April of 2012. Off the coast, the lights of a huge fleet of shrimp boats can be seen, right along the maritime border between Argentina, the Falkland Islands and international waters. Scientists say this unmanaged fleet is threatening the South Atlantic marine ecosystem by depleting the squid, which are key to a food chain that provides sustenance for penguins, seals, birds and whales. Photo: NASA’s Suomi Polar-orbiting Partnership Read more:

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