As part of a joint effort by the ministries of Security, Defense, Foreign Affairs and Worship, and Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries to uphold Argentine sovereignty and to prevent the plundering of the natural resources in our waters, the Argentine Coastguard performs intensive daily activities to prevent, discourage and avoid any illegal fishing in Argentina's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
As a result of this joint work, since the end of 2020 the Coastguard has been able to identify and carry out detailed and daily surveillance of 314 fishing vessels (240 from the Pacific, 65 from the Atlantic, and 9 from the North Atlantic). This monitoring and surveillance work is possible thanks to a modern and innovative integral system of electronic surveillance operated by the Coastguard under the name “Sistema Guardacostas”. It is a geographic information system (GIS) which provides all information available on the movements, technical and administrative data of vessels that are sailing around the world. In addition, the GIS can store information from other active or passive systems used to locate vessels.
Currently, during the fishing season for the Illex argentinus squid species, a significant number of fishing vessels are found to be approaching national limits searching for Argentine fishery and marine resources. However, many of those vessels lack the required authorizations, consequently committing illegal acts that have an impact on fauna, environment, and sovereignty.
According to the Coastguard’s reports, foreign-flagged vessels that approach the area adjacent to the EEZ come mainly from three sailing routes: from the Pacific Ocean (entering through the Strait of Magellan), from the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, and from the North Atlantic.
Furthermore, the Coastguard workers supplement the monitoring tasks with constant patrolling at the limit of Argentina’s EEZ (mile 200) with the GC-24 patrol vessels, which are assisted by air patrols and by the Maritime Traffic Service. This ensures round-the-clock monitoring and control of the hundreds of ships that operate daily in Argentine waters and must respect the exclusion areas established by the National Fisheries Authority, in order to prevent the overexploitation of our fishery and marine resources.
It should be noted that the Argentine Government made great advances in the field during 2020 by promoting two laws that were passed by Congress: the reform of the Federal Fisheries Regime, which increases fines for illegal fishing in the Argentine Sea; and the demarcation of the outer limit of the Argentine Continental Shelf, as a result of the uninterrupted work carried out for more than two decades by the Commission on the Outer Limit of the Continental Shelf (COPLA in Spanish), which reports to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The new system of fines varies based on units of value related to the cost of fuel, with equivalent amounts ranging from 500 thousand to 3 million liters of diesel, depending on the seriousness of the crime, with a minimum of 25 million and a maximum of 150 million Argentine pesos, considering current market values. Foreign vessels are subject to the highest applicable penalty, since they fish without Argentina’s permission. Moreover, the enforcement authority may order the capture and retention of foreign-flagged ships at the port until payment of the fine, following appropriate investigative proceedings. The new law has led to the capture of three vessels and the collection of fines amounting to 250 million Argentine pesos last year.