X-RAY OF A JUSTIFIED BUT FLAWED PROCEDURE

An investigation into the seizure of the Chinese shrimp trawler 

Lu Rong Yuan Yu 606 by the Oriental Republic of Uruguay

By Sabina Goldaracena

8 of August 2022

Llegada de Buque Maldonado a Montevideo (14).jpeg

Source: Ministry of National Defense

 On July 4, it was reported that the Uruguayan Navy had captured a Chinese squid fishing vessel after 12 hours of pursuit and after having detected it in apparent illegal fishing activity within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Three weeks after starting a maritime investigation by the Prefecture -Coast Guard- of the Port of Montevideo, on Tuesday 26, the Public Prosecutor requested to close the case. In its ruling, the Prosecutor determined the report prepared by the National Directorate of Aquatic Resources (DINARA), contained evidence that "is not conclusive evidence to determine that this vessel incurred in illegal fishing in territorial waters". She moreover considered that contempt has not been configured either, because there were problems in communication, derived from language differences, and because the ship left heading to the port of Montevideo.   

The case has been complex and, for many, odd since the very beginning. The use of a satellite monitoring platform of ships by AIS, together with official photographic evidence, facilitates the understanding of the events that led to the capture of the vessel. The verification of several data that were made public allows us to unravel why at first it was assumed that it had been found that the ship was fishing, so that at the end it was surprising that no evidence of a fishing infraction had been found. Despite this, the complete picture exhibited, when questioning the credibility of certain arguments, sows doubt about what was there in an attempt to be hidden since reasons presented do not seem to make sense.

INDICATIONS OF APPARENT ILLEGAL FISHING ACTIVITY

In the early morning of Thursday, June 30, LU RONG YUAN YU 601, LU RONG YUAN YU 605 and LU RONG YUAN YU 606, three squid fishing vessels of Rongcheng Homey Ocean Fishing enter the EEZ of Uruguay. Neither these, nor the other five squid fishing vessels registered under their name, had previously used the port of Montevideo, the capital of the country, nor the anchoring areas in waters of common use with Argentina in Río de la Plata (where foreign fishing vessels are also serviced at the port of Montevideo) . All three came from the south, from the fishing zone in the area adjacent to Argentina's EEZ, known as mile 201, where these vessels gather approximately between December and June to fish Illex argentinus squid. 

Animated map of the Starboard Maritime Intelligence satellite monitoring platform with the AIS tracks of the three Chinese fishing boats and the Uruguayan Navy vessel.

In Starboard Maritime Intelligence they are seen entering about 30 miles from the outer limit of Uruguay's EEZ, changing course and alternating drift events with navigation. AIS signals are intermittent. At night, which is when the squid is caught, its drifting events represent an indication of possible fishing activity. Its AIS intermittencies reinforce the suspicion of illegal activity, given that there are no vessels of Chinese nationality authorized to fish in the Uruguayan EEZ. 

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2. Starboard map legend. Source: Starboard Maritime Intelligence.

 
 

Timeline of events

The chronological synthesis of the indications of illegal fishing that the Fleet Command of the National Navy detected and what they did in this regard is presented below. It was extracted from the presentation at a press conference [3] of Captain CG. Andrés Debali, Chief of Staff of the Fleet, and includes additional clarifications. Facts of the AIS-based monitoring analysis of LU RONG YUAN YU 606 are consistent with what was observed in Starboard.

 
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Jueves, 30 de Junio 2022

En la madrugada, tres poteros chinos - Lu Rong Yuan Yu 601, 605 y 606 - ingresan a la ZEE de Uruguay. Se adentran 30 millas del límite exterior y alternan eventos de deriva y navegación, no siempre habiendo registro de las señales de AIS

Viernes, 1 de Julio 2022

La mañana del viernes 1 la Armada uruguaya detecta a las embarcaciones mediante monitoreo satelital. Observan que habían pasado la madrugada gareteando dentro de la ZEE.

 

A las 10:00 AM

Para verificar lo que estaban haciendo, el Comando de la Flota destaca a la aeronave B-200 T de Aviación Naval. Ésta constata la presencia de dos poteros –el 605 y el 606- 150 millas náuticas al sureste de la ciudad de Punta del Este. Al 605 lo encuentra navegando y al 606 con el ancla de capa a la deriva (un paracaídas que se utiliza bajo el agua para mientras se pesca o pretende reducir su deriva, con las máquinas paradas, mantener al buque en posición respecto a la corriente). Aunque desde la superficie el ancla de capa no es visible, sí lo son el cabo recuperador  y la estacha de fondeo, -que la sujeta al barco por la proa-, y el boyarin que marca su posición, como puede apreciarse en la siguiente fotografía.  

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4. LRYY 606 ancla capa.jpg

Basada en los indicios observados, la Armada envía la tarde del sábado al ROU 23 para que vaya a interceptar al LRYY 606 y averiguar qué estaba haciendo. También se envía la aeronave - más veloz - que, al atardecer lo encuentra parado con luces que aparentan ser las de pesca y el ancla de capa a la deriva.

Sabado, 02 de Julio 2022

La aeronave vuelve a registrar su actividad por la noche del día que fueron detectados, cuando es más factible que los encuentre faenando. Al LU RONG YUAN YU 606 lo encuentra con posibles luces de pesca (lámparas de unos 2000 watts rodean a la embarcación para atraer al calamar hacia la superficie). A los otros dos poteros chinos, los detecta con luces de navegación. 

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Viernes, 1 de Julio 2022

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I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

I'm a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It's easy.

Fotografía tomada por la aeronave de Aviación Naval al LU RONG YUAN YU 606 el viernes 1 de julio a las 22:13 hrs

5. Photograph taken by Naval Aviation aircraft of LU RONG YUAN YU 606 on Friday, July 1 at 22:13 hrs. Source: Fleet Command presentation at press conference.

Saterday, July 02 2022

At 19:08 Hours

Taking into consideration the indications of an apparent illegal activity by the LU RONG YUAN YU 606, the hydrographic vessel ROU 23 MALDONADO is ready and sails on Saturday 2, to carry out an operation of control of jurisdictional waters. The aircraft is also sent to the ship which, at dusk, finds it at sea with lights that appear to be fishing lights. From the bow of the 606 seems to come out the recovering cape anchor line. 

Fotografías tomadas  al LU RONG YUAN YU 606 por el ROU 23, el domingo 3 de julio a las 21:20 hrs.
-Fotografías tomadas  al LU RONG YUAN YU 606 por el ROU 23, el domingo 3 de julio a las 21:20 hrs.

Photographs taken of the LU RONG YUAN YU 606 by ROU 23 on Sunday, July 3 at 21:20 hrs. Source: Fleet Command presentation at press conference.

Monday, July 04 2022

After 12 hours of the first visit and inspection attempt, around 9:00 a.m., the potero stops. The Uruguayan Navy carries out an inspection at sea. The captain does not declare and no cargo is found.

Tuesday, July 26 2022

Three weeks after a maritime investigation was initiated by the Prefectura del Puerto de Montevideo, the Prosecutor's Office closed the case on the grounds that the report of the Dirección Nacional de Recursos Acuáticos (National Directorate of Aquatic Resources) does not allow the conclusion that the vessel had been fishing in Uruguayan waters.

 

It also considered that there was no contempt in the escape of the fishing vessel, due to communication problems, derived from the difference in languages, and because the vessel was leaving towards Montevideo.

At 22:13 hours

The aircraft records their activity again on the same night of the day they were detected, when it is more likely to find them fishing. The LU RONG YUAN YU 606 is found with possible fishing lights (lamps of about 2000 watts surround the vessel to attract the squid to the surface). The other two Chinese fishing boats are detected with navigation lights. 

Fotografía del LU RONG YUAN YU 606 tomada por Aviación Naval el sábado 2 de julio a las 19:08 hrs.

6. Fotografía del LU RONG YUAN YU 606 tomada por Aviación Naval el sábado 2 de julio a las 19:08 hrs.

Fuente: Presentación del Comando de la Flota en conferencia de prensa.

Sunday, July 03  2022

Between 20:30 - 21:20 hours 

The ROU 23 finally arrives at the position of the LU RONG YUAN YU 606 on Sunday, and finds it with lights that appear to be fishing lights. At the minimum distance it can approach, about 500 meters, it is not possible to distinguish if it has the grills down, let alone if it has the jibs in operation, according to a crew member of the Navy vessel. 

Then, the radio communication between both vessels begins. Meanwhile, the ROU 23 puts its boats in the water to visit him. Due to a series of unforeseen events, the visit is delayed and the captain ends up fleeing toward land.

Tuesday, July 05 2022

Once the vessel arrives in Montevideo, the National Directorate of Aquatic Resources and the Prefecture of the Port of Montevideo carry out a second inspection. When the captain was questioned, he declared that he had cargo on board. Then, in the hold where the crew's provisions were, they found 12.5 tons of squid.

Friday, July 1 2022

Through satellite monitoring, on the morning of July 1, the Fleet Command's Tactical Operations Center detected that the vessels had spent the early morning hours drifting - without engines or drifting - within Uruguay's EEZ, and without reporting their positions via AIS. 

At 10:00 a.m.

In order to verify what they were doing, the Fleet Command called the B-200 T aircraft of the Naval Aviation. The latter confirms the presence of two poteros - 605 and 606 - 150 nautical miles southeast of the city of Punta del Este. The 605 was found sailing and the 606 with the drifting layer anchor (a parachute used underwater during fishing operations or when drifting is to be reduced, with the engines stopped, in order to keep the vessel in position with respect to the current). Although the anchor layer is not visible from the surface, the retrieving line and the anchor stake -which holds it to the ship at the bow- are visible, as well as the buoyarin that marks its position, as can be seen in the following photograph.  

Thursday, June 30 2022

In the early morning, three Chinese squid boats - Lu Rong Yuan Yu 601, 605 and 606 - enter Uruguay's EEZ. They enter 30 miles from the outer limit and alternate drifting and sailing events, not always registering AIS signals. 

 Fotografía del LU RONG YUAN YU 606 tomada por Aviación Naval.

3.  Photograph of LU RONG YUAN YUAN 606 taken by Naval Aviation. Source: Fleet Command presentation at press conference. 

Vista lateral que muestra cómo esas líneas salen por proa del LU RONG YUAN YU 606.jpg

4. Side view showing how these lines exit the bow of LU RONG YUAN YU 606. Source: Fleet Command presentation at press conference. 

Differences between

free sailing and fishing 

According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), vessels such as these have the right of free navigation in the EEZ of a state other than their flag state, even though they do not have fishing rights. 

 

It is therefore relevant to clarify the conditions that must be met in order to determine that a potero is carrying out fishing activities. According to the experts consulted, during navigation, a fishing vessel should not have the anchor and stern sail deployed, the grills should remain folded and only the navigation lights should be on (and the working lights, as well as the deck lights, should be off). 

If the ship is sailing, it does not have the drift anchor and has the aft sail low, the grills are folded and it only has the navigation lights on (and the work lights, as well as those of deck, off). Although free sailing does not require prior notice, if at any time the suspicion arises that this ship is carrying out an activity that is not typical of free sailing, it may be subject to control by the coastal state, which may ask for information about origin and destination, cargo, etc.   

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Analysis

Between insufficient evidence and the version of the ship- the facts don't add up.

The captain of the LU RONG YUAN YU 606 declared in the interrogation that he dropped the anchor due to strong winds and that, when he tried to resume the navigation, heading to the port of Montevideo, he had a problem in the engine that delayed him, according to the newspaper El Observador, which had access to the case file. However, if the captain had decided, due to engine problems, or for any other reason, to stop the vessel, stay with the anchor in place or do any other activity, he should have notified the authorities, so as not to generate suspicions regarding his presence. In addition, the other two fishing boats from the same company took as long to reach the anchorage areas on the Rio de la Plata as the first ones to enter the port (as can be seen at the end of the sequence of Starboard's animated map). It is implausible to consider that its four-day delay in making its way to the anchorage area could also have been due to problems in its engines once the wind had ceased.    

 

In a press release, the Chamber of Foreign Fishing Agents (CAPE), representatives of these vessels in Uruguay, gave another justification: "the vessel used its anchor layer with the intention of awaiting instructions to enter the Port of Montevideo (keeping its AIS on)". Note that it is stated that it had the "intention of awaiting directives", not that it was awaiting them, since it had not yet completed any of the formalities with the Uruguayan authorities prior to its arrival, as acknowledged by Aldo Braida, president of the Chamber, consulted by the author during the present investigation. The ship had never entered the port of Montevideo before, nor had any of the other seven ships registered in the name of the same company. Therefore, the question remains as to whether it had actually planned to arrive at the port, or whether it just entered Uruguay's EEZ to carry out an activity other than free navigation.

 

 

In turn, according to El Observador based on the file, "the captain assured that he turned on the deck lights during the night for safety and to be seen due to bad weather".  In an interview with the author, Aldo Braida referred to the captain's statement: "The ship had the yellow lights, which are the smallest lights on the ship, turned on at night because the sailors were working" dismantling the jiggers. According to Braida, of the 36 fishing stations, about 12 were armed. "That is to say, it was not with its fishing gear complete enough to fish," he said. What the captain stated was that the fishing lights were not on. 

 

The photographs shown in this report were shown to four people who were able to recognize fishing vessels fishing. Although more than one clarified that it was not possible to prove that the vessel was doing so, they were asked what type of lights they thought they were seeing in each case. Regarding the two aerial photographs, most felt that they could be of the deck. Regarding the two taken from ROU 23, all agreed that too much brightness is perceived to support that same version. "To work on deck those lights are too much, even harmful to the eyesight," indicated a captain. "But if you can't see the fishing gear deployed, there is no evidence," he said. The fact is that, contrary to what the Ministry of National Defense interpreted at the beginning and transmitted in a press release, such gear is the jigging gear, and not the anchor layer, just as the photographs with possible fishing lights are not enough proof. As the CAPE president argued "there have been no aerial or sea images, day or night, where the vessel is seen with the gear deployed or fishing". He is right, at least as far as those that have become public knowledge are concerned. 

Model of a photograph that shows that a squid fishing vessel is actually fishing. 

In the front picture, in addition to the fishing lights and the square stern sail, you can see the raised grills and you can even see the hooks hanging from the lines. Above, the vessel's flag. In the background, another pot with fishing lights, with the grills and lines, and the square stern sail.

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 The Tortuga Manuelita to capture: Chronicle of a frustrated inspection

With its AIS equipment turned off and in darkness, ROU 23 was up on July 3 at around 8:30 pm on its first encounter with the LU RONG YUAN YU 606 150 miles from the coast, where it was probably using fishing lights. While they carry out the radial communication with the Chinese vessel, they are sending the crew to visit and inspect the ship. Difficulties arising from the lack of adequate material resources, and unforeseen problems arising from the lack of experience in the capture of powerful vessels, allow them to escape without the National Navy having confirmed and recorded the fishing suspicion. The lack of material resources of the institution may come to light during this operation. The hydrographic vessel ROU 23 is affectionately nicknamed "The Little Turtle". With its maximum eight knots of speed - 15 km per hour -, if it managed to reach the squid fishing vessel it was because he stopped and waited for it, stated sources related to the capture procedure. Meanwhile, the inspection was postponed for 12 hours, giving them enough time to remove any evidence before surrendering. 

 

   Several people asked when this ship was captured, and found it suspicious that it had fled. If everything was in order, the incident would not have gone from a visit and inspection at sea. Then, why run away?  The ship had no history of illegal fishing or resistance to the authority in Argentina, as the Fleet Command believed in the first instance, as they had not verified press versions officially. Aldo Braida explained the reasons why the ship fled, "the captain declared that he was frightened by the situation, that he felt intimidated, that he did not identify the Navy ship and that he set sail for the port at mid-speed, simply keeping a certain distance, until in daylight he stopped machines and let authorities board, once he identified that the Navy ship was such", said the CAPE president. 

11. Recording of radio communication between ROU23 and LRYY 606 on July 03, 2022.

By courtesy of the National Navy, the author was given access to a summary of more than an hour of radio communication between the two vessels before the chase began. The same things are said and asked to the captain several times, in clear and concise English. This is the internationally established language for communications at sea [4]. The captain's difficulty in speaking in that language is notorious. Nevertheless, he can be heard to be informed, and the captain seems to understand, that it is the Navy and that he is going to visit and inspect it. He then says he does not have permission from the office. He is told again that it is the Navy, that he is going to exercise his right in the jurisdictional waters, exercising sovereignty, and again he says yes, that he understands. They agree to put the ladder on his port side, but he says that he does not have permission from the office, and then he flees in the direction of land.
 

The question then remains as to whether it was really because it did not identify the Navy that it resisted inspection. Because, in addition, although the ROU 23 arrives with the AIS off, during the chase it keeps it on -as seen in Starboard- and it identifies it as a military vessel. So, if the captain had not been able to understand English, he could, through the AIS, recognize that it was a military vessel. When, 14 hours after the first attempt, the ship stops and the visiting crew manages to inspect it, they notice "a great capacity of cleanliness of the crew, verified in several places of the ship", according to sources linked to the procedure. He finds that all the cargo holds were empty and clean. He enters the cargo hold where the crew's provisions were stored, without any movement of the stored goods. In a second inspection, carried out by the Prefectura del Puerto de Montevideo - Coast Guard - and the Dirección Nacional de Recursos Acuáticos (National Directorate of Aquatic Resources) in that port, they found frozen squid. 

 

Photograph of the hold where the frozen squid was found among the crew's supplies. It was in the background, but not hidden. 

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12. Source: Prefectura del puerto de Montevideo.

The report accessed by El Observador states that when they arrived at the port, Captain Liang Weifeng, when questioned, declared that he had fish in the holds, and 12,460 kilos of squid were found there. It details that during the previous inspection he had not declared the cargo and the maritime agency had, although he spoke of 30 tons fished in the South Atlantic.

The author of this report spoke with Jaime Coronel, National Director of Aquatic Resources. Coronel confirmed that they found the 12.5 tons of squid, and a remainder resulting from a transshipment. When asked if it was Illex argentinus, he answered that apparently it was, given the morphological characteristics, but that a genetic study was not done to verify it. He explained that, "although there may be other similar squid, in general, in that area, it is Illex". Regarding the other species found, the DINARA director said that it was a leftover for the crew's own consumption, and that there were two or three species, including hake, which had been transshipped from a Chinese fishing vessel. 

 

He also said that it was verified that the ship's records coincide with the times in which the squid may have been fished. It was determined that the squid had been caught about 20 days before entering Uruguayan waters, in the high seas of the Southwest Atlantic Ocean. It had a fishing permit for international waters and for squid, and all papers were in order, according to Coronel. 

Both the director of Aquatic Resources and two other specialists consulted agree that the EEZ region where the fishing boats were detected is not a squid fishing zone. They explained that squid is fished on the continental shelf itself and on the edge of the slope, up to a depth of about 1000 m, with the highest concentrations occurring up to 400 m depth. However, where the Chinese vessels were trolling there are 2000 to 3000 m of water column. The Cephalopod Fisheries Program of the National Institute of Fisheries Research and Development of Argentina (INIDEP) reported that the area where the vessels stayed is located to the east of the area where, at that time, the last spawning aggregations of Illex argentinus were found. Therefore, the specialists consulted view with some skepticism the possibility that these vessels had been fishing in the reported positions because, although there could be squid there, the yields would be minimal. However, some of them do not rule out that the vessel was making a non-commercial catch, for consumption on board, using only the jigging lines that had not yet been dismantled, or hand lines to fish for species other than squid.

A correct procedure that found more challenges than evidence

Pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), in accordance with Fishing Law No. 19,175, the coastal State exercises sovereign rights over the resources of its EEZ and, in order to guarantee the exercise of these rights, UNCLOS authorizes it to take the necessary measures to ensure that compliance with its laws and regulations is not frustrated. These measures may include boarding, inspection, seizure and initiation of judicial proceedings, with the particularity that the infractions committed may not be punished with custodial sentences and that if the seized vessels and their crews give a reasonable bond or another guarantee, they must be promptly released [5]. As expressed to the author by Dr. Edison Gonzalez Lapeyre [6], the Navy proceeded correctly in the case of a vessel that was first spotted at sea and then resisted inspection. Given the well-founded suspicion that this vessel was fishing in Uruguayan waters, he considers that it should have been apprehended and submitted to the competent judge. On the other hand, Dr. González Lapeyre pointed out that "the Judge, if he did not receive sufficient evidence of conviction from the Navy and DINARA that it was fishing in our Exclusive Economic Zone, proceeded correctly in releasing the vessel". However, in his opinion, "he should have done so promptly and demanded a reasonable bail". 

A review of the evidence collected by the Uruguayan Navy showed that there was a presumption or suspicion of a violation of national law by a foreign vessel. This vessel, which had never before entered the EEZ, was drifting during the night and, in addition, had prolonged AIS intermittences, which led to the suspicion that they were intentional. It was recorded using the anchor layer and with lights that appeared to be fishing lights: all indications that it was catching or preparing to catch squid. Uruguay therefore exercised jurisdiction in relation to its own territory, its maritime zones and its rights in such situations. However, the procedure of gathering evidence to support the suspicion failed to obtain clear evidence of the alleged fishing infraction. The existence of lighted fishing lights is not necessarily conclusive evidence of such activity. The images taken by the Navy should show the extended grills and, if possible, the jigging equipment in operation. They do, however, serve to prove the aforementioned presumption. 

On the other hand, the reasons given by the captain of the LU RONG YUAN YU 606 and/or his representatives for the entry of this vessel into the Uruguayan sea, fail to convince that he was exercising his right of free navigation. Nor do they succeed in eradicating the suspicion that it might have committed the infraction that led to its arrest. In addition, the reasons given for his resistance to being inspected are as absurd as the dismissal of the investigation of the commission of a possible crime of contempt due to communication problems derived from language differences, considering that English is the internationally established language for communications at sea, and because, in addition, the captain could have recognized the Navy through the AIS positioning system. "If the agreed language is English, the prosecution cannot argue a language problem, because it is not a problem of the captain of the Navy if the captain of the Chinese vessel speaks English or not," said a specialist who asked to remain anonymous. He also pointed out that the captain should speak English and that the fact that the case was filed for that reason does not make sense, and even contravenes international regulations on the matter. 

     

In Dr. González Lapeyre's opinion, it is not appropriate to apply criminal legislation in the EEZ, because the jurisdiction of each State is limited to the resources existing there. "In that area, the principles established in international agreements must be applied, particularly by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea", he clarified. Consequently, she considers that "it is not correct to criminalize contempt in the sub-examine case". The author sent the respective queries to the prosecutor of the case, without receiving a reply. The aim was to better understand her reasoning and whether, in her opinion, the concept of contempt applies beyond the 12 miles of the Territorial Sea. It would have been interesting to know, if he considers that it does not apply, why he did not directly use that argument to request the file. If, on the other hand, he considers that it does apply throughout the EEZ, the question remains as to whether Uruguay, in other circumstances, could do something similar to Argentina when foreign fishing vessels suspected of illegal fishing in its EEZ resist boarding. In that country, if a vessel does not comply with the orders and instructions of the Prefecture and starts sailing towards the high seas, it incurs the crime of disobedience to authority under Art. 239 of the Penal Code. According to the Prefectura Argentina's website, the Coast Guard vessel initiates hot pursuit to try to make him cease such conduct, giving intervention to Justice. The Prefecture must obtain and record evidence that the vessel resisted, and to avoid making improper use of force that could endanger human lives, the pursuit may cease, since the judge has sufficient evidence to order an international arrest warrant through INTERPOL. Unfortunately, the opinion of the prosecutor in the case as to whether any of this is applicable in Uruguay could not be ascertained [7].  

Finally, this arrest procedure brought to light the lack of material and operational resources, as well as the lack of training of the Navy's human resources to carry out this type of procedure, the basis of which is the collection of quality evidence that is irrefutable. Better communication and coordination between the different agencies involved when suspicion of illegal fishing activity arises are essential. For example, the Directorate of Aquatic Resources and the Prefecture were not warned that the ROU 23 was leaving for an operation to control jurisdictional waters and, during the inspection at sea, no fishery inspector was present. The weaknesses revealed should not demoralize those who experienced them, but, on the contrary, can be used as indicators of where capabilities and cooperation need to be strengthened to obtain better results in future operations of this type. 

 
 
 

Five false facts that the media reproduced

1.

The LU RONG YUAN YU 606, or other vessels of the same owner, had previously used the port of Montevideo.

(Source: Chamber of Foreign Fishing Agents)

This is false, according to her search of the author's record of foreign fishing vessels that have entered the port and arrived at the anchorage areas since the year these three vessels were built. She persistently requested from the Chamber of Foreign Fishing Agents the name of the owner and his vessels that would have used the port prior to the intrusion and capture of one of them. She never got an answer. The invitation remains to prove the link they are said to have already had with the port. 

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Conclusion

Regional cooperation is urgently needed    

Foto: FAO

 The Southwest Atlantic Ocean is the only region of the sea of its type and morphological and ecosystem characteristics lacking a Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO) for straddling species, such as squid. Distant-water fleets concentrate on capturing hydrobiological resources in the area adjacent to the outer limit of Argentina's EEZ, being mostly Chinese squid fishing vessels operating there every year. The dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom over sovereignty over the disputed territory of the Falkland Islands/Malvinas, a British overseas territory, has prevented coastal States from organizing themselves to negotiate with the flag States of distant-water fleets operating in the region, conservation, and management measures applicable to their activity on the high seas.

 

   Upon request of the undersigned, Mr. Alfonso Miranda Eyzaguirre, president of CALAMASUR and of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, listed the most relevant implications for the specific case of the absence of an RFMO. Miranda pointed out that, first, having such an organisation would necessarily lead to the existence of a register of ships. Then, when determining the full exploitation of the capacity of a resource, when a fleet of a level large enough to reach full exploitation levels has been acquired, it would have to close access to that resource, and not leave the indefinite entry of ships, as is the case until now. The absence of limits on the high seas in the Southwest Atlantic (FAO 41) would serve as a camouflage to conceal illegal catches in territorial waters of coastal countries, which many suspect could have occurred in the incident under analysis. Added to this is the lack of material means of these nations to make efficient monitoring of such an extensive maritime area.

 

Secondly, the president of CALAMASUR explained that the fact that the RFMO existed would also lead to the emergence of compliance measures that require certain controls, which currently do not exist in international waters. So, for example, if there had been an RFMO in operation, the vessels would have to inform where in the international waters under their orbit of competence, they had captured what they had on board. The captains should have documented it and demonstrated it with VMs monitoring and it would be necessary to corroborate it with the presence of physical and/or electronic observers with cameras in the vessels. These are some of the deterrent mechanisms for illegal fishing, which do not exist in the Southwest Atlantic today, in the absence of an RFMO. So, since these international waters are not regulated, they can be used as a pretext to, when fishing is found in the warehouses, say that they have done everything in international waters and there is no way to verify it, Miranda said. 

 

    Finally, beyond the problems arising from the absence of a system of governance in the Southwest Atlantic, the squid fishery is also poorly regulated in the Southeast Pacific, under the SPRFMO, something that CALAMASUR has repeatedly denounced. Given this lack of regulation in both oceans of the southern area of the continent, and taking into account that these are fleets with transgressive behaviors, taking advantage of any gap in international legislation, as well as any rupture in the control mechanisms of the countries, it would be important for them to undertake joint actions and strengthen cooperation and the exchange of information at all levels to face a regional security problem. 

Footnotes

(1).   AIS, in English: "Automatic Identification System", whose main objective is to allow vessels to communicate their position so that other vessels or stations can know their position and avoid collisions. It also serves the purpose of carrying out an intelligence analysis by indirect means on possible fishing activity

(2).  According to the search on the "Ship and company particulars" section of the International Maritime Organization website. https://gisis.imo.org/Public/Default.aspx. 

(3).   According to the search of the record of foreign fishing fleets using the port of Montevideo done by the author for an unpublished study for Pristine Seas.

(4). In 1973, the Maritime Safety Committee of the International Maritime Organization agreed, at its 27th session, that when language difficulties arise, it is desirable to use a common language for navigational purposes, and that this language should be English. Accordingly, the Standard Maritime Navigation Vocabulary was developed, adopted in 1977 and amended in 1985 (Source: Fleet Command Press Conference Presentation).

(5).   Article 73 of the CONVEMAR, in Frida Armas Pfirter, El Derecho Internacional de Pesquerías y el Frente Marítimo del Río de la Plata, Buenos Aires, 1994, pp.116-117.

(6). Former professor of private international law, specialist in maritime law, retired from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uruguay and former president of the National Ports Administration.

(7). Prefectura Naval Argentina. Available at: https://www.argentina.gob.ar/prefecturanaval/resumen-operativo/preguntas-frecuentes