Some time ago, I posted some thoughts on the impact of war on the environment and creatures besides humans. Those comments focused primarily on the immediate effects of war waged on land.
Today, a news piece brought to my attention another environmental impact of war: The lack of cooperation on transboundary environmental protection issues between countries in dispute. In this case, the countries are Britain and Argentina, the region is the South Atlantic Ocean, and the issue is illegal fishing.
Argentina’s coast guard caught two Chinese trawlers illegally fishing Argentine waters for ilex squid (I’m not certain, but I believe this to be primarily Argentine shortfin squid, Illex argentinus) before the ships could escape out into international waters. But this was a rare victory against an illegal fishing fleet, mostly out of China, which hauls an estimated 300,000 tons of ilex squid out of the South Atlantic every year.
From the Associated Press article today:
“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.
The Falklands are defended by British warships, planes and submarines, giving the fisheries agency considerable muscle to enforce licenses in its waters. But Argentina’s navy has never recovered from its 1982 war against Britain for the islands, and its coast guard has just eight ships to cover more than 1 million square miles (2,800,000 square kilometers) of ocean, said its chief of maritime traffic, Mario Farinon.
(The) problem is so big that it can be seen from space: Images of the Earth at night, taken by a NASA satellite last year, show darkness at sea the world over, except for this spot in the South Atlantic. There, 200 miles from the nearest coasts, the lights of this renegade fleet shine as brilliantly as a city.
The industrial ships transfer tons of squid to huge refrigerator ships and get refueled and resupplied at sea so that they can fish without pause.
Argentina ended 15 years of joint fisheries management in 2005 because it didn’t want any government relationship suggesting a recognition of the islanders’ claim to the British-held islands.
And so each government goes its own way, licensing boats and trying to enforce its stretch of the sea, while refusing to cooperate against the much larger fleet that’s just beyond their individual reach.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides countries with tools that Argentina could use right now to combat overfishing.
One is the “hot pursuit” article, which enables enforcers to pursue boats fishing illegally within their territory into international waters. Another is the “straddling species” clause, which allows governments to protect wandering species like the ilex squid, by applying the same rules on both sides of their maritime border. Countries that jointly manage their seas often grant each other reciprocal permission to arrest rule breakers, and any two countries can make bilateral agreements to regulate their fleets as they see fit, Greenpeace attorney Daniel Simons said.
The territorial dispute makes that impossible here.
“Argentina should enforce the same rules and impose its sovereignty beyond the 200-mile limit,” said de los Santos of the fishing chamber. “But it would have to have a fleet 10 times bigger.””
As anyone who watches detective movies knows, a territorial line of jurisdiction is only of use if the perpetrator of a crime does law enforcers the favor of remaining within their jurisdiction. In this case, the territorial lines between Britain and Argentina are crossed not only by the illegal trawlers, but by the squid themselves, as well as the entire feeding chain which depends upon them. Not to mention the companies supporting the ships from half a globe away.
Illegal fishing and overfishing in the South Atlantic is a matter of conflict even without the ongoing dispute between two countries that are in a position to actually do something about it.
Full AP article
Study of biological squid patterns off the coast of Brazil
Special topic paper, Fisheries and Aquaculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) – World Squid Resources
Article on previous disputes between Argentina and the Falkland Islands over squid fishing