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Federal Fisheries Law in Argentina : Full of Loopholes

Chandrika SHARMA

02 / 1998

At a time when the Congress is in the process of approving a new Fisheries Law, there is a disturbing lack of meaningful public debate on important aspects of this law, in particular with regard to the call for a change in the fishery regime and the introduction of Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs)for vessels and species.

After the changes in the Fisheries Sub-secretariat, the new officials now cite the cause of the near collapse of the resource as being due to what they call the `Olympic Model’ of fishery exploitation. This elegant way of dealing with the problem avoids both personal and political responsibility by blaming the previous resource regime, described as a common property and unrestricted access regime, where each fisherman or boat owner tried to maximize his catch, while observing no restrictions.

In their view, the answer lies in replacing this model with another which divides the resources species-wise into `private quotas’ for each vessel. In theory, this mechanism will cause quota owners to take responsibility for conservation and will enable them to plan their annual activities better. Moreover, each quota has an exchange value with a market price, and this will add to the value of the fishery enterprise.

However, in other countries like Iceland and the US, ITQs have already been shown to increase the concentration of ownership of fisheries capital in the hands of the owners of freezer and factory ships. Worse still, they hasten the process of social disintegration, causing unemployment and marginalization. Because of this, fishing nations like Norway are establishing various mechanisms to protect small and medium-scale fisheries against the

incursions of the owners of large trawlers.

In the latest draft of the Fisheries Law approved by a majority of the deputies from the Committee of Maritime Interest, there is passing reference to implementing a system of ITQs. However, it provides no details of how this is to be done, leaving the future Federal Fisheries Council (CFP)to work them out.

CeDePesca has publicly expressed concern over the process of structural change being imposed on Argentinean fisheries. It is a process where a fleet of factory vessels, now accounting for 60 per cent of the catch, is displacing the traditional fresh fish sector comprising boats supplying shore-based factories. Furthermore, we have shown that, rather than being brought about by a natural process of investment in fishing capital, it is the

Executive Authority (of the Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food)that has forced these changes through a series of resolutions and practical measures, particularly over the last six years.

Today, the clearest signs of the conflict between the two fleets can be seen in the reported landings of hake (Merluza argentina or M. hubbsi)which have exceeded the sustainable limit by 180,000 tonnes. While the fresh-fish fleet has maintained its historic catch levels below 300,000 tonnes, in six years, the freezer vessels have increased their catches to around 300,000 tonnes, breaching both legal and biological limits.

Faced with this situation, there are only two solutions: either to fix quota levels and allocate allowable catches based on the landings of recent years. This would consolidate the position achieved by the (factory)freezer fleet and gravely affect the shore-based processing industry.

Alternatively, the historic track record of the fresh-fish fleet could be taken into account and quotas allocated to the freezer fleet in line with their catches in 1990.

The creation of such an ITQ system, which allocates quotas on a proportional basis without checks and balances, is the most complex and roundabout way of consolidating the positions of the trawler owners belonging to CAPECA (Consortium of High Seas Freezer and Factory Vessel Owners), and is a springboard for them to continue increasing their control over the fishery resources.

Palabras claves


, Argentina


The importance of artisanal fisheries is widely recognized and is acknowledged in several international treaties and conventions. At the same time there are many national and international programmes which aim to develop and improve artisanal fisheries. Of particular note is Article 6.18 of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries which highlights the important contribution of small-scale and artisanal fisheries to employment, income and food security.

Despite all this, in several countries, as in Argentina, government policy evidently promotes

the industrial sector and makes little effort to protect and revitalise the artisanal sector. Fishery

management systems, such as the ITQ, are adopted even though they have been known to

negatively affect and marginalize the artisanal sector in countries where they have been

introduced. Keeping in mind the unique and vital contribution of the artisanal sector, fishery

management policies need to be radically re-thought and re-oriented.


Artículos y dossiers

GODELMAN, Ernesto, Full of loopholes in. Samudra Report, 1998/01, 19

ICSF (International Collective in Support of Fishworkers) - 27 College Road, Chennai 600006, INDIA - Tel. (91) 44-2827 5303 - Fax (91) 44-2825 4457 - India - - icsf (@)

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