X-RAY OF A JUSTIFIED BUT FLAWED PROCEDURE

 

An investigation into the capture of the Chinese squid fishing vessel

 Lu Rong Yuan Yu 606 by the Oriental Republic of Uruguay

By Sabina Goldaracena

12 of August 2022

Llegada de Buque Maldonado a Montevideo (14).jpeg

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

Three weeks after a maritime investigation was initiated by the Coast Guard from the Port of Montevideo, on Tuesday 26, the Public Prosecutor requested the case to be closed. In their ruling, the Prosecutor determined that, from the report prepared by the National Directorate of Aquatic Resources (DINARA), the data collected "is not conclusive evidence to determine that this vessel incurred in illegal fishing in territorial waters". It was considered that there was no contempt of court either, because there were problems in communication, due to language differences, and because the ship left heading to the port of Montevideo.   

Source: Ministry of National Defense

For many, the case has been complex and odd since the very beginning. The use of a satellite-based vessel tracking platform using AIS signals [1], together with official photographic evidence, facilitates an understanding of the events that led to the capture of the vessel. The verification of several pieces of public information makes it possible to unravel why at the beginning it was prematurely assumed that the vessel had been found to be fishing, so that at the end it was surprising that no evidence of a fishing infraction had been found. Despite this, the larger picture that was exposed by questioning the credibility of some arguments raises doubts about what was intended to be hidden when the motivations given to explain certain facts do not seem to make sense.

INDICATIONS OF APPARENT ILLEGAL FISHING ACTIVITY

At dawn on Thursday, June 30, three squid-jigging vessels LU RONG YUAN YU 601, LU RONG YUAN YU 605 and LU RONG YUAN YU 606, from Rongcheng Homey Ocean Fishing [2] entered the EEZ of Uruguay. None of these ships, nor the other five squid fishing vessels registered under the company name, had previously used the port of Montevideo, nor the anchoring areas in waters of common use with Argentina in Río de la Plata (where foreign fishing vessels are also serviced from the port of Montevideo) [3]. The three vessels came in from the south, from the fishing zone in the area adjacent to Argentina's EEZ, known as mile 201, where vessels typically gather between December and June to fish Illex argentinus squid. 

1. Animated map from the Starboard Maritime Intelligence satellite monitoring platform with the AIS tracks of the three Chinese squid-jigging vessels and the Uruguayan Navy vessel. 

On the Starboard Maritime Intelligence platform, the three vessels 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. The AIS intermittencies reinforce the suspicion of illegal activity, given that there are no Chinese vessels authorized to fish in the Uruguayan EEZ. 

2022-08-Vessel-Events-Starboard.jpg

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

 
 
 

Timeline of events

The following is a chronological summary of the events and signs of illegal fishing detected by the National Navy Fleet Command, and their consequent reaction. It was extracted from a press conference presentation [4] of Captain CG. Andrés Debali, Chief of Staff of the Fleet, and includes additional clarifications. The facts of the AIS-based monitoring analysis of LU RONG YUAN YU 606 are consistent with what was observed in the Starboard Maritime Intelligence platform. 

 

Thursday, June 30 2022

In the early morning, three Chinese squid jigging vessels - LU RONG YUAN YU 601, 605 and 606 - enter Uruguay's EEZ. They enter 30 miles from the outer limit and alternate drifting and navigation, not always registering AIS signals. 

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

3. Picture of LU RONG YUAN YU 606 taken by the Naval Aviation.  Source: Fleet Command presentation at a press conference. 

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

Friday, July 1 2022

On the morning of July 1, the Fleet Command's Tactical Operations Center detected through satellite monitoring that the vessels had spent the early morning hours adrift within Uruguay's EEZ. They were also not reporting their positions by AIS.

At 10:00 a.m.

To verify what they were doing, the Fleet Command called in the B-200 T aircraft from the Naval Aviation, which confirmed the presence of two squid-jigging vessels - 605 and 606 - 150 nautical miles southeast of the city of Punta del Este. Vessel 605 was found navigating and 606 was observed with a drift anchor (an underwater parachute used either during fishing operations or to reduce drifting while engines are turned off - in order to keep the vessel in position with respect to the current). Although the drift anchor is not visible from the surface, the recovery rope and the anchoring hawser -which holds it to the ship by the bow- are visible, as well as the buoyant marking its position, as can be seen in the following image.  

4. Side view showing how those lines come out of the bow of the LU RONG YUAN YU 606. Source: Fleet Command presentation at a press conference. 

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

At 22:13 hours

The aircraft re-registers their activity later that evening when it is more likely to find them fishing. This time, the LU RONG YUAN YU 606 is found with possible fishing lights (lamps of about 2000 watts surrounding the boat to attract the squid to the surface). The other two Chinese squid fishing vessels are detected with navigation lights. 

Saturday, July 02, 2022

At 19:08 Hours

Given the indications of apparent illegal fishing activity observed from the LU RONG YUAN YU 606, the vessel ROU 23 MALDONADO is prepared and sets off on Saturday, July 2nd, to conduct a control operation of jurisdictional waters. An aircraft that was also sent for surveillance found the vessel at sunset adrift with lights that appeared to be fishing lights. From the 606’s bow, the recovery rope apparently stood out of the drifting anchor.

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

6. Photograph of LU RONG YUAN YU 606 taken by Naval Aviation on Saturday, July 2 at 7:08 p.m. Source: Fleet Command presentation at a press conference.

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.

Sunday, July 03  2022

Between 20:30 - 21:20 hours 

When the ROU 23 finally reaches the position of the LU RONG YUAN YU 606 on Sunday, the vessel was found with lights that appear to be fishing lights. At the minimum distance it managed to approach- about 500 meters- it was difficult to distinguish if the vessel had the grills retracted. According to a crew member of the Navy ship, it was even more difficult to notice if the jiggers were operating.

Then, the radio communication between both vessels begins. Meanwhile, the ROU 23 puts its boats in the water to visit the LU RONG YUAN YU 606. However, due to a series of unforeseen events, the visit is delayed and the captain ends up fleeing toward land.

7 & 8.  Pictures taken of  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 pursuit, around 9:00 a.m., the LU RONG YUAN YU 606 finally stops. The Uruguayan Navy is able to carry out an inspection at sea. The captain does not declare and no cargo is found.

Tuesday, July 05 2022

Once the vessel arrives in Montevideo, the National Directorate of Aquatic Resources and the Coast Guard 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.

Tuesday, July 26 2022

Three weeks after a maritime investigation was initiated by the Coast Guard of the Port of Montevideo, the Prosecutor's Office closed the case on the grounds that the report of the 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.

Differences between

free navigation 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 within the EEZ of a state other than their own flag state, even if they do not have fishing rights.

 

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

The drift anchor and the stern sail

The drift anchor is a parachute that goes underwater to keep the boat as static as possible during fishing tasks or while preparing for fishing, thus preventing it from being dragged by the current away from the shoal.

 

The stern sail is used so that the vessel stays in position relative to the wind. It performs the same function in the opposite direction to the drift anchor. This keeps the ship in a balance between the current and the wind. Keeping the bow in that direction also decreases the ship's rolling and pitching, making it much more stable for the vessel's operations. 

VIsta2 eng (1).png

Jigging machine

The jigging machines have slides opening like arms towards the sides of the ship. The jiggers are mechanical systems that lower and raise the hooks on which the squid is caught and place them on board.

eng Ilustración-Barco-Potero_vista1 (1).png

Although free navigation does not require prior notice, if at any time suspicion arises that such a vessel is engaging in an activity that is not proper to free navigation, it may be subject to control by the authorities of the coastal state, which may request information on its origin and destination, the cargo it is carrying, and so on.   

6. LRYY 606 tardecita luces ancla.jpg

Analysis

Insufficient evidence and ship version not matching

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 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, and remain 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 squid jiggers 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 their four-day delay in getting to the anchorage area could also have been due to problems in their 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 ship used its drift anchor with the intention of awaiting directives to enter the Port of Montevideo (keeping its AIS on)". It should be noted that he expressed that he had the "intention to wait for instructions", 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 several ships registered in the company's name. Therefore, the question remains as to whether the ship 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’s take on the file, "the captain assured that he turned on the deck lights at night for safety and to be seen because of 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, out of the 36 fishing stations, about 12 were in operation. "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 displayed in this report were shown to four people qualified to recognize fishing activity on vessels. Although more than one clarified that it was not possible to prove that the vessel was fishing, they were asked what type of lights they thought they were seeing in each case. On the two aerial pictures, most believed they could be deck lights. Regarding the two taken from ROU 23, all agreed that the light is perceived as too bright to support that same version. “To work on deck those lights are too many, even harmful to sight,” one captain said. “But if you do not see the fishing gear deployed, there is no evidence,” declared. Contrary to what the Ministry of National Defense initially interpreted and transmitted in a press release, these gears are the jiggers, and not the drift anchor, as well as photographs with possible fishing lights are not sufficient proof. As the president of the CAPE argued, "There has been no aerial image or from the sea, day or night, where the ship is seen with the gear deployed or fishing". The reason supports him, at least as far as those that have become public knowledge are concerned. 

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

On the main vessel (in front), the grills are discarded, allowing the hanging hooks of the lines is visible, in addition to the fishing lights and the stern sail. Above is the flag of the ship. In the background, there is another squid jigging vessel that can be seen with fishing lights, where the grills and the lines, and the stern sail are also in place.

Buque-potero.jpg

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 for its first encounter with the LU RONG YUAN YU 606, 150 miles from the coast, where it was probably using fishing lights. While ROU 23 carries out radio communication with the Chinese vessel, they are sending the crew to visit and inspect the ship. However, due to difficulties arising from the lack of adequate material resources, and unforeseen problems based on the lack of experience in the capture of squid-jigger vessels, the LU RONG YUAN YU 606 was able 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, LU RONG YUAN YU 606 postponed the inspection for 14 hours, giving themselves enough time to remove any evidence before surrendering.

Several people who were consulted about the event found it suspicious that the ship had fled. If everything was in order, the incident would not have gone beyond a visit and inspection at sea. So, why run away? The ship had no history of illegal fishing or resistance to the authorities in Argentina, as the Fleet Command believed at first, due to not having verified press reports through official channels. According to El Observador, Captain Liang Weifeng gave four reasons why he left before being boarded by the visiting crew. "He said that when they were intercepted the Navy ship did not have the satellite identification system (AIS) turned on, that due to poor visibility they did not identify them as a Uruguayan Naval vessel, and they did not 'understand' that they were going to board them, and that for security reasons they did not allow the visit", summarizes the newspaper.

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

By courtesy of the National Navy, the author of this report was given access to a summary of over 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, which is the internationally established language for communications at Sea [5]. The captain's difficulty in speaking English is notorious. However, it can be heard that he is informed, and the captain seems to understand, that it is the Navy, and that they are going to visit and inspect the vessel. The captain then says he does not have permission from the office. He is told again that it is the Navy, that they are going to exercise their right in the jurisdictional waters, exercising sovereignty, to which the caption says yes, that he understands. They agree to put the ladder on the vessel's port side, but the captain says that he does not have permission from the office, and then immediately, the ship flees towards the mainland. 

The question then remains as to whether the ship resisted inspection because it truly did not identify the Navy. Because, although the ROU 23 arrives with the AIS off, during the chase it is kept on -as seen in Starboard- and it identifies it as a military vessel. Therefore, even if the captain wasn’t able to understand English, he could recognize that it was a military vessel through the AIS. Then, 14 hours after the first attempt, the ship finally stops and the visiting crew manages to inspect it. They note "a great capacity of cleanliness of the crew, verified in several places of the ship", according to sources linked to the procedure. They found that all the cargo holds were empty and clean. They enter the cargo hold where the crew's provisions were stored, without any movement of the stored goods. It is only in a second inspection, carried out in the port by the Coast Guard from the Port of Montevideo and the National Directorate of Aquatic Resources, that they found frozen squid. 

 

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

113.-Bodega-donde-fue-encontrado-el-calamar-(2).jpg

13. Source: Coast Guard of the port of 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 they spoke of 30 tons fished in the South Atlantic.

The author then spoke with Jaime Coronel, National Director of Aquatic Resources. Coronel confirmed that they found the 12.5 tons of squid, and a remaining half ton resulting from a transshipment. When asked if it was Illex argentinus, he answered that apparently it was, given the morphological characteristics, but that no genetic study was done to verify it. He explained that "Although there may be another similar squid, in general, in that area, it is Illex". Regarding the other species found, the DINARA director said that it was leftovers for the crew's own consumption and that there were two or three species, including hake, which had been transshipped from a Chinese trawler. 


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 established that the ship had caught it 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 in order, according to Colonel.

Both the Director of Aquatic Resources and two other specialists consulted agree that the region of the EEZ where the squid jiggers were detected is not a squid fishing zone. They explained that squid is fished on the continental shelf 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 fishing there are 2000 to 3000 m of the water column. The Program of Cephalopods of the National Institute of Fisheries Research and Development of Argentina (INIDEP) reported that the area where the vessels stayed is located east of the area where, at that time, the last winter spawning aggregations of Illex argentinus were found. As a result, the specialists consulted are skeptical about 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 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

In accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), in line with the Fisheries Law No. 19.175, the coastal State exercises sovereign rights over the resources of its EEZ and, to guarantee the exercise of these rights, the UNCLOS authorizes to take the necessary measures so that compliance with its laws and regulations is not frustrated. Such measures may include a visit, inspection, capture and initiation of legal proceedings, with the particularity that the offenses committed may not be punished with a term of imprisonment and that if the captured vessels and their crews give a reasonable bail or other guarantees they must be released promptly [6]. As expressed to the author by Dr. Edison González Lapeyre [7], the Navy proceeded correctly in front of a ship that was first seen adrift and then refused to be inspected. In view of the well-founded suspicion that the vessel was fishing in Uruguayan waters, he considers that its arrest and submission to the competent judge was appropriate. On the other hand, Dr. González Lapeyre noted that: ”If the judge did not receive sufficient evidence from the Navy and DINARA regarding the  fishing activity in our Exclusive Economic Zone, he proceeded correctly in releasing the vessel.” However, in his opinion, “he should have done so promptly and requiring reasonable bail”. 

If the evidence collected by the Uruguayan Navy is reviewed, it shows a presumption or suspicion of a violation of national law by a foreign ship. The latter, who had never entered the EEZ before, drifted during the night and moreover, had prolonged AIS intermittences which made it suspicious that they were intentional. It was recorded using the drift anchor and with lights appearing to be fishing: all the indications that it was catching or preparing to catch squid. Uruguay thus exercised jurisdiction over its own territory, maritime zones and rights in such situations. However, the procedure to collect evidence to support the suspicion failed to obtain clear evidence of the alleged fishing infringement. The existence of fishing lights is not necessarily conclusive evidence of this activity. The images taken by the Navy should show the extended grills and, if possible, the jiggers in operation. They do, however, serve to prove the aforementioned presumption. 

On the other hand, the reasons argued by the captain of the LU RONG YUAN YU 606 and/or its representatives for the entry of this ship into the Uruguayan sea do not manage to convince that it was exercising its right of free navigation. Nor do they succeed in eradicating the suspicion that it might have committed the infraction that led to its capture. In addition, the reasons given for his resistance to being inspected are as absurd as it is to dismiss the investigation of the commission of a possible crime of contempt for communication problems derived from language differences, considering that English is the internationally established language for communications at sea, and because, besides that, the captain could have recognized the Navy by the AIS positioning system. "If the agreed language is English, the prosecution cannot argue a language problem, because it is not a Navy captain's problem whether or not the Chinese ship's captain speaks English," 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 is being closed for this reason is illogical and even contravenes international regulations on the matter.       

     

In Dr. González Lapeyre's opinion, it is not appropriate to apply criminal law in the EEZ, because the jurisdiction of each State is limited to the resources existing there. "In this area, the principles established in international agreements must be applied, in particular by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea", he clarified. Consequently, he 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 the reasoning and whether, in their opinion, the concept of contempt applies beyond the 12 miles of the Territorial Sea. It would have been interesting to know if the prosecutor considers that it does not apply, why did she not directly use that argument to request the file? If, on the other hand, she 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 Coast Guard 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 Argentine Coast Guard website, the Coast Guard vessel initiates hot pursuit to try to make him cease such conduct, giving intervention to Justice. The Coast Guard 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. 

Finally, this capture procedure highlighted the lack of material and operational resources, as well as poor training of the Navy's human resources to carry out this type of procedure, which basis is the collection of quality and irrefutable evidence. Better communication and coordination between the various agencies appear to be essential as a result of the suspicion of illegal fishing activity. For example, the Directorate of Aquatic Resources and the Coast Guard were not advised that ROU 23 was conducting territorial waters control operations and, during the inspection at sea, no fisheries inspector was present. Manifest weaknesses should not demoralize those who experienced them, but, on the contrary, they can be used as indicators of where capacities 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)

TRUTH:

 

This is false, according to a search in the Chamber’s record of foreign fishing vessels that have entered the port and arrived at the anchorage areas since the year these 3 vessels were built. The reports investigator persistently requested the Chamber of Foreign Fishing Agents for the name of the vessel owner and the vessels that would have been recorded in the port prior to the intrusion. However, the Chamber hasn’t responded to this date. never got an answer. The invitation remains to prove the link they are said to have already had with the port. 

Conclusion

Regional cooperation is urgently needed    

Source: Starboard Maritime Intelligence

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, is an "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).  Press conference given at the Tactical Operations Center of the Fleet Command, which had as speakers Admiral Jorge Wilson, Commander in Chief of the Navy, Rear Admiral Mario Vizcay, Commander of the Fleet, and the Chief of Staff of the Fleet. Montevideo, 07/21/2022.

(5).   In 1973, the Maritime Safety Committee of the International Maritime Organization agreed, at its twenty-seventh session, that, when language difficulties arise, a common language should be used for navigation purposes, and that this language should be English. Accordingly, the Standard Maritime Navigation Vocabulary was developed and adopted in 1977 and amended in 1985 (Source: Presentation of Fleet Command at Press Conference).

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

(7).  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.