The South Atlantic and Fisheries expert, César Lerena; denounces successive national governments for alienating Buenos Aires fishing resources, compromising them to the detriment of future generations and attacking their industry and employment; Therefore, it asks to address the provincial rights not delegated to the Nation over fishing resources and the provincial administration of migratory and associated resources.

30 de May de 2024 09:07

"The government of the Nation keeps the natural resources of the Province," says César Lerena.

We write for the majority of Argentines who "live with their backs to the sea" and for the people of Buenos Aires to whom the National Government It alienates fishing resources and, what is even worse, it does so with such ineptitude that it compromises these natural resources for future generations and threatens the industry and employment located throughout the provincial territory.

We are all affected by decades of incapable national governments, which poorly manage the fishing resource that belongs to the Province of Buenos Aires and all its inhabitants. They appropriate the fishing resources owned by the Province in their territory; the migratory species originating from it and those that are part of the ecosystem and do not take any action to prevent illegal fishing of migratory species in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and on the high seas, by foreign vessels. That is, they manage irregularly.   

Argentina has an Exclusive Economic Zone of 3,757,124 km2, within which, about 520 national vessels capture about 800 thousand tons annually; This, despite the potential of the southwest Atlantic of some 1.7 million tons of fish and squid, which are mostly extracted by Spanish-British, Chinese, Korean and Taiwanese vessels, without any action on the part of the national government, with a evident biological damage to the ecosystem and provincial economies. While this is happening, some 10,000 Chinese vessels exceed 200 nautical miles and are dedicated to remote fishing on the high seas along with another 60,000 vessels from some 24 countries, including Spain, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. United Kingdom associated with Spain. This explains - along with aquaculture production, which represents 49% of global exploitation - the reasons why Argentina is insignificant in global fisheries trade. For example, Spain, “with an EEZ of 1,040,000 km2, one third of that of Argentina, has 8,972 fishing vessels; captures one million tons/year; imports 1.8 million tons; exports 1.2 million tons; It consumes 23 kg per capita and has 231 vessels fishing in international waters” (CEPESCA, 2018).

Our neighbors capture on the high seas. Chile has four fleets that fish outside the EEZ: the industrial one for horse mackerel, krill and cod and the artisanal one for swordfish, and Peru, where its artisanal vessels go beyond 200 miles in search of mahi mahi and the industrial ones go to catch it. of horse mackerel, mackerel and tuna.

Argentina will not reverse its situation if - in addition to implementing important development in aquaculture and mariculture - it does not go out to compete with the international fleet on the high seas and adequately manage migratory resources in the EEZ and the high seas. None of this is possible if the government does not launch a development project and financial support for these activities. Far from it, this government promotes a reform to foreignize fishing exploitation and apply a Large Investment Incentive Regime (RIGI) that goes against the national industry.

The national government behaves like “the dog in the manger”, it is left with the administration of the fishing resources of the Provinces and is on its way to giving away the fishing to those who have the world market.      

It is very difficult to explain that Argentina in 1975 with a total catch of 504 thousand tons employed more personnel than with a total catch of 800 thousand tons in 2023. There are several reasons and among them is that a large part of the exports are reprocessed in countries importers, transferring direct and indirect labor to them. A policy that promotes unemployment, although elementary compared to giving them the sea (the reform of the fishing law) or directly all the permits (RIGI).  

It is “the story of the good pipe” since the prevailing model leads the municipalities to understand the activity as national; The Nation does not carry out local or regional development projects and the current government is on its way to alienating a national productive activity that has generated towns and jobs.

The statistical data of the Undersecretariat of Fisheries, for its part, refer to the total number of landings that is absolutely inconsistent, where it does not distinguish whether they are entire species; head-tailless (H&G); steaks, etc. and, to initiate a sustainable and sustainable administration of the resource, the type of process undergone prior to discharge must be established; the volumes and certain species landed; discards and waste in the sea; the stock in the chambers and, by the way, the certain export values, among other things. The lack of control of the activity makes efficient administration of the resource by the National State unfeasible. We cannot imagine the lack of control of foreign fishing.

There are discards at sea estimated at 30% of the catches according to FAO, INIDEP, AGN and the Development Bank, in a country with 48.3% poor, that is, 22.6 million people and 11. 9% of indigent people comprising 5.5 million people. Fishing can be a phenomenal tool for providing proteins of high biological value to vulnerable populations, solving the problem of hunger and malnutrition in Argentina. If we regulated the discarding of fish into the sea, as was already established by the European Union in 2004 and Argentina in 1998 by article 21 of Law 24,922, we would have 3 million daily servings of protein foods all year round for Argentine children and adolescents. . Nothing that the national government has resolved and that will be aggravated by the extractive and deindustrialization policy that this government carries out.

Most freezer vessels can mechanically produce about a thousand tons of frozen fish fillets ready for export, using an average crew of about 40 workers and making about 6 trips per year.  To produce those thousand tons, the ship had to capture about 2,700 tons of fish; That is to say, about 10,200 tons of waste will have been thrown into the sea each year. If we take this number to 35 freezer trawlers, a total of about 357,000 tons of fish waste will have been thrown into the sea per year. If we go back twenty-six years, when Law 24,922 was enacted, more than 9.3 million tons of waste will have been thrown into the sea in addition to the millions of captured species discarded. Let's imagine, then, marine pollution and analyze the losses it means for Argentina. According to the FAO, one ton of fish waste produces 225 kg of meal and 50 kg of oil. The processing on board and the disposal at sea of the 10,200 tons of waste mentioned above prevents us from using them for the manufacture of 2,295 kg/year of flour and 510 kg/year of fish oil; Therefore, at an export value of US$ 1,490 per ton of flour, it means a loss of 3.4 million dollars, plus the value of US$ 2,348 per ton of oil, causes a loss of US$ 1.2 million dollars; That is to say, Argentina loses the sum of 4.6 million dollars per year through on-board processing and waste disposal from each vessel, which multiplied by the 35 trawler freezer-processing vessels means a total annual loss of about 161 million dollars, to which should be added the losses and pollution derived from discards into the sea of “so-called non-commercial” or “bycatch” species. 

We should add that it takes about 4.9 tons of wild fish waste to obtain the meal and oil needed to produce one ton of salmon. That is to say, if Argentina wanted to venture into aquaculture or mariculture, like the policy of China or Spain, it should take into account the full use of waste.

You cannot throw tons of protein into the sea, while there are millions of poor, destitute and malnourished children. Of course, this will get worse if current policies continue or even worse, foreignizing the sea or selling national companies. 

Argentina, with 4.9 kg per capita/year, is the country with the least consumption in Latin America, consuming an average of 9.8 kg. Even lower than Africa, which consumes an average of 11 kg. and of course than the European Union. which reaches an average annual per capita consumption of 22 kg. If all exports of white fish, squid, anchovies and preserves were destined for the domestic market, Argentines would reach a consumption of 11.5 kg. still below the world consumption average of 20 kg. There is no national fish consumption plan and the Province of Buenos Aires cannot wait to recover the resource.

The fishing industry cannot escape the general provisions of the law in a country with a government without a national maritime and fishing project, which is even willing to foreignize the exploitation of the Argentine sea without requiring the landing in national ports of the catches and using foreign crew. It seems the limit that can be tolerated and, despite this, the interested parties themselves remain defenseless in the face of a National State that first appropriates provincial resources and then moves forward to hand them over to foreign companies for the mere payment of a fee, destroying the industry, regional development and employment.  

This, in the midst of a disproportionate internal cost that hinders the exploitation of the resources of the South Atlantic and its industrial process, leaving this activity of economic, social and strategic interest out of competition. A true tale of good pipe. No one can imagine a present or a promising future in this or any other export activity in a country with very high inflation, when the main fishing competitors and buyers in the world have an interannual inflation (April/2024) of 2.2% (Germany) ; 2.2% (France); 3.3% (Spain); 0.3% (China); 3.4% (United States); 2.7% (Japan); 0.9% (Italy); 3.2% (United Kingdom); 3.1% (South Korea); 17.7% (Russia); 3.2% (Brazil) while Argentina has an inflation of 289%. Today, tomorrow or the day after, the products are no longer competitive or they are exported at a loss, while agricultural activity and offshore catches are subsidized in the European Union and Asian countries, while in our country, the high costs of energy , fuels, tax burdens, the lack of credit for production and high interest rates, end up transforming industrial companies into financial companies to obtain the profits that would be expected to be the result of productive activity. Great business development cannot be expected in this scenario, where the Financial Manager replaces the Production Manager.

The old aphorism that “the owner of the fishing is the owner of the fish” is being used by the Nation, who through a scaffolding of laws intended to manage all the resources is harming the Province of Buenos Aires and others. provinces of the maritime coast, since their income from fishing exploitation is seriously diminished and, fishing, is not only an economic activity, but a tool for industrial establishment, population and employment generation.

The Nation carries out a model that does not benefit provincial interests. An investigation without the necessary participation of the province; uncontrolled seas and growing illegal fishing that depredates the ecosystem, in which provincial fishing resources intervene. Its policies are aimed at deepening deindustrialization, denationalizing activity and concentrating activity in a few foreign companies. Through the “base law” and the establishment of the “Large Investment Incentive Regime (RIGI) by which “tax, customs and exchange exemptions are granted for 30 years to those projects that invest more than 200 million dollars in capital goods; that reach income tax reductions from 35% to 25%; the free disposal of 20% of the foreign exchange generated by its exports after the first year, 40% from the second year and all (100%) from the third; payment of VAT with tax credit; They may be applied to the payment of income tax, taxes on personal property and checks, in fact implying the exemption of these taxes. These companies will be able to import goods free of tariffs and will not pay the PAIS tax; in addition to being exempt from paying real estate taxes, gross income and municipal taxes” (Pulti, Gustavo “Draft Declaration of Rejection of the Base Law Project…”, 2024). A true inequity that will seriously affect the resources of the Province and the Municipalities and all the fishing companies and suppliers of inputs that are installed in the Province of Buenos Aires (and in other provinces) will lack any compensatory incentive and, in the face of so much inequality, they will be of competition in the international and national market and being tempted to put the finishing flag on their facilities, vessels and concessions that hold fishing permits, quotas and authorizations. It will have a worse effect on the fisheries law reform project that made up the “base law” that was rejected under pressure from experts, the media, the fishing sector and different political leaders; Since these companies will not only be left with the sea and its resources, but with the entire industry based on land, surely reducing the added value and the consequent Argentine unemployment, in favor of the markets from which the investments come. 

When national governments are elected, voters cannot imagine that the natural resources of their provinces will be appropriated in favor of the national treasury, maintain a centralist structure and administer sectoral policy; However, the directly interested sectors that invest in the Province should be concerned about what policies the administrators of the National State will carry out, since the fisheries policy should not be left in the hands of an undersecretary or a Federal Fisheries Council (CFP), equally integrated. by a provincial representative who, even having a clear provincial policy, must act in a minority vis-à-vis the national officials that make up the body. Here the old saying of "fishermen gain in a troubled river" applies, since the atomized participation of the provinces in that Council, sometimes with conflicting interests, on which politicians, businessmen and unions act, has facilitated the task of monopolizing the administration. by the Nation.

There are two central aspects on which we are paying attention: the provincial rights not delegated to the Nation over fishing resources and the provincial administration of migratory and associated resources. 

The government of the Nation keeps the natural resources of the Province. Where are the pioneers and makers of fishing? «…When they came to look for me, there was no one else who could protest» (Martin Niemöller, 1946).

Dr. A.S. Caesar August Lerena.

Expert in South Atlantic and Fishing

Former Secretary of State.

President Center for Studies for Latin American Fisheries (CESPEL)

President of the Agustina Lerena Foundation

May 19, 2024        

By Agenda Malvinas


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