Argentine reactions disturb Galician fishing industry

Marzo de 2006

The Argentine/British controversy over the arrest of the Falkland Islands flagged “John Cheek” partly owned by a Spanish company, Pescapuerta, could have consequences for the Galician companies currently operating in Argentine waters, writes J. Carneiro in the newspaper El Faro de Vigo.

Apparently Argentina is considering withdrawing the fishing licences from those companies which catch on both sides of the South Atlantic, Argentina’s EEZ and the Falklands EEZ, even when operating under different names.

If the restriction becomes effective, as suggests a bill draft presented by Eduardo de Bernardi, a member of the Lower House from the Patagonian province of Chubut and belonging to President Kirchner’s leading faction in the ruling Justicialista party, “it could have a direct impact on six Spanish fishing companies from Vigo which jointly have twenty vessels”.

Although so far “it’s a proposal” and reliable sources indicate it does not have much chances of going ahead, “there is concern”.

Meanwhile “John Cheek” under Captain Jaime Cortizo from Galicia, remains moored in Comodoro Rivadavia, formally charged with illegal fishing in Argentina’s EEZ and waiting for local authorities to confirm the fine that given previous experiences could reach the equivalent of 270.000 Euros.

The Argentine Coast Guard alleges that when “John Cheek” was arrested in the high seas she had been fishing 198 miles offshore Argentina, which Captain Cortizo has repeatedly denied since the first moment.

De Benardi’s draft bill contemplates validating fishing licences only to those vessel owners who recognize Argentina’s “full” EEZ and withdrawing them from those companies which work under both flags, Argentina and Falklands.

“Argentina’s fishery is one of the most important for Galician companies, most of which have local associates and partners, and have gone as far as setting up processing plants, particularly in the peninsula of Chubut”, highlights Mr. Carneiro in Vigo’s main daily and closely linked to Galicia’s fishing interests.