The South Atlantic and Fisheries expert, César Lerena; gives his opinion on the measures that Javier Milei's government should take to improve fishing activity in favor of Argentine interests.

21 de December de 2023 13:17

Article 1 and most of the articles of the Fisheries Law No. 24,922 should be reformed

We already mentioned in a recent article ( César Lerena “The vote for whoever administers the South Atlantic, 11/12/2023 ) some of the measures that should be taken to improve the administration of the South Atlantic and with it, fishing activity. Today we wish to specify others, in light of the fact that the government, together with the devaluation of the peso, has decided to add 15% withholdings to fishing exports.

In general, we agree with the statements of the Secretary of Bioeconomy (Former SAGyP) Fernando Vilella ( Canal agrositio, 12/19/2023 ) that, although referring to agricultural activity, could well be applied to fishing activity, among them the need to “ remove “regulatory obstacles, modernize the organization, facilitate investment to double exports and improve communications ”; with the exception that the fishing activity is a State Concession and, therefore, there is a contract between parties, which should not be modified during the validity of the concession and, in addition, the fishing companies, regardless of taxes etc. that any company contributes to support the State, pays rights in consideration for the concession, with which the administration, research and fishing control is financially supported; Therefore, it should be exempt from paying withholdings.

In line with the thoughts of engineer Vilella, we consider that, in fishing, apart from the actions indicated in the aforementioned article, the following measures should be carried out -among others:

The removal of regulatory obstacles . Aside from the elimination of thousands of “regulation” standards that make capture, industrialization and export difficult, derived from resolutions of the then AGyP Secretariat and the Federal Fisheries Council and other minor bodies, it is necessary to reform the Federal Law of Fishing (24,922) especially, but not exclusive ( César Lerena “National Fishing Plan. One Hundred Actions and its effects to enhance fishing and recover the South Atlantic. Ed.CESPEL, 2023 ) to redefine the object of the activity, reformulate the Federal Fisheries Council and establish business sustainability and resource sustainability. There are other issues; but we will explain only these three points so as not to overwhelm the reader.  

Article 1 and the majority of the articles of Law 24,922 should be reformed, precisely so that this law is an instrument that facilitates the development of the activity, reduces State costs, makes research more efficient to ensure the sustainability of the resource and controls. of the resources of the Exclusive Economic Zone and those that migrate from it to the high seas. Based on this, article 1 should be worded as follows:    

ARTICLE 1 FISHERIES POLICY . "The national fisheries policy is constituted by guidelines and guidelines through which the National Executive Branch guides the competent bodies in fisheries matters to achieve the objective of achieving the sustainable, effective and efficient use of the fishing resources, through the application of an approach precautionary, ecosystemic and sustainable in fishing exploitation; the safeguarding of marine ecosystems in which these exist resources; the maximum use of the resources available in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the migratory resources originating from it and those that migrate from the high seas to the EEZ and/or are associated with it; its equitable distribution and the development of the maritime coastline and the different provinces of the national territory through the practice of raising, reproducing and fattening fish, crustaceans and mollusks in a natural or artificially created environment for this purpose, environmentally sustainable.

To this end, the Argentine State recognizes that fishing and aquaculture are activities that strengthen the food and territorial sovereignty of the nation, contribute to security and are a priority in national development planning and encourages the exercise of maritime fishing and aquaculture in pursuit of maximum development compatible with the rational use of living marine resources in the national fishing industry and environmentally sustainable aquaculture, with the support of the national naval fishing industry, research and technological development.

It will promote the effective protection of national interests related to fishing and guarantee the sustainability and sustainability of fishing activity, promoting research and perpetual conservation of resources, favoring their equitable distribution among industrialists and populations throughout the country and encouraging the total transformation of raw materials in plants located in the national continental and insular territory, through quality, sanitary and environmentally appropriate processes; ensuring maximum added value is obtained; the greatest employment of Argentine labor and promoting national consumption at levels compatible with average consumption at a regional and global level.

The National and/or Provincial State may grant concessions to national companies for the capture of fishing resources in the EEZ and to national and/or foreign companies outside the 200 miles.

Among the foundations of this article we can indicate the following: the original Article 1 of Law 24,922 defines the object of its sanction and is, without a doubt, one of the most prominent articles of this law, however, it does not reach to define that the use of the resource must have the national fishing industry as its main destination, as occurs in the legislation of many other Latin American States and the European Union and that, being a resource for everyone, it must be distributed equitably and preferably industrialized in plants on land to add the maximum possible value and not transfer labor to third developed countries that, on the contrary, should acquire finished Argentine products and not raw materials for their transformation.In addition, the fishing industry must serve to generate naval industrial production and provide feedback to research and technology.

The ecosystem approach is fisheries administration from the global to the particular. It manages the ecosystem and within it, the species and their ecological and nutritional interrelationships and the socioeconomic effects linked to the exploitation of resources; It implies an integrated vision of the management of waters and living resources, which aims to preserve and sustainably use them in a balanced way. It includes the analysis of all processes, functions and interactions between components and resources (living and non-living). of the ecosystem and involves the management of species and other ecosystem services and goods. Under this approach, it is also recognized that human beings and the diversity of cultures are integral components of ecosystems, considering the cumulative impacts derived from their multiple activities. , as well as their socioeconomic relevance.

This approach implies keeping in mind the regulation of the capture of migratory resources originating in the EEZ on the high seas by flag State vessels, as an essential way to manage the ecosystem, since it is not possible to provide sustainability to resources in the EEZ, if the ecosystem is not sustainable. On the other hand, this acquires a superlative dimension, when, like almost all countries in Latin America and Europe, they have given preeminence to "the social, economic, technological, productive, biological and "environmental" and even when fishing and aquaculture are part of the country's food security programs, whose proteins are of high biological value and, by the way, much superior to the rest of the animal proteins.

In this sense, we cannot lose sight of the fact that in Argentina the governments have done practically nothing regarding the increase in the consumption of this essential protein in the Argentine diet, with 4.8 kg per capita/year, according to the Council for Structural Change of the Ministry of Productive Development (March, 2021) among the lowest in Latin America and in the consumption of fishing products, whose average is 9.8 Kg; from Africa 10.1 Kg; of the European Union of 23.97 Kg and of the world of 20.2 Kg (2020).

Several countries in Latin America and Europe have policies to promote the domestic consumption of fish and among them Panama, which, as a result of these policies, has an annual per capita consumption of 20.5 kg (2020), above the world average and 427% more than Argentina. Its fishing legislation promotes this, such is the case of Article 12 of Decree 204 of 3/18/2021 where a series of objectives are indicated that refer to “conservation and sustainable administration”; to “the equitable development of communities, eradicating poverty and improving the socioeconomic situation of fishermen”; “improve the contribution of fishing and aquaculture to food security and nutrition, as well as support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food” and “incorporate added value with the purpose of making them more profitable.” All central aspects of fishing activity and the objective of legislating in this regard.

On the other hand, it is urgent for Argentina to promote the development of environmentally sustainable aquaculture, since while this activity represents 49% of total world production, in Argentina it is below 1% of national production.

It is interesting to take into account what is regulated by Mexico in Article 17 of the General Fisheries Law ( DOF24/7/2007 amended on 04/24/2018 ) which defines the principles on which the National Fishing Policy must be based and It is very important to observe and, as we have transcribed in this project, that "The Mexican State recognizes that fishing and aquaculture are activities that strengthen the food and territorial sovereignty of the nation, that they are matters of national security and a priority for national development planning" that, "fishing and aquaculture are oriented towards the production of food for direct human consumption and the supply of high-quality, low-cost proteins for the inhabitants of the nation" and, that "The "Fishing and aquaculture sectors will be developed from a sustainable perspective, which integrates and reconciles economic, social and environmental factors, through a strategic and eco-efficient approach"; That is to say, it assigns an important role to Fisheries, which understands territorial and food sovereignty, which it describes as national security and a priority in national development, and this is exactly the case, because fishing activity is not only a economic issue, but it is a strategic continental and maritime occupational and population tool, provider of high biological quality proteins, which must be managed in such a way as to reconcile economic interest with social interest and with the care of resources in perpetuity.

On the other hand, it is necessary to reformulate the integration of the Federal Fisheries Council (CFP) and the destination of the Funds (FONAPE) that come from the business contribution. The way in which this Council was integrated at the time of the enactment of the law (1997/8 ) was based on seeking the adhesion of all the provinces of the maritime coast, but this resulted in 50% of the business contributions being derived from the provinces, despite the fact that they were resources existing in the EEZ under the domain of the National State and, that In addition, the provinces charge fees for the exploitation of their resources within 12 nautical miles.

Contributions to the provinces must be made via the CFI.

If this had not been the case, all the expenses of efficient administration, research and fishing control could have been sustained with private contributions. The governments in power poorly managed the economic income from the activity and its fishing resources. And they duplicated functions. which are also assigned, for example, to SENASA. The State collects fees and should not apply withholdings nor should it finance the activity. The concessionaires are taking charge of an inefficient State, incapable of managing the funds provided by the companies, eliminating waste and substitutions and illegal fishing, among other issues.      

We can add to what has been said that the current law shows inconsistencies between the Enforcement Authority and the CFP chaired by the former Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, although, in recent decades, he has delegated the functions to the Undersecretary of Fisheries and, in In practice, this official is a mere executor of the policies established by a CFP who depends on a secretary, even if he does not perform his function. All of this undermines the functions of the latter who, in reality, should act in accordance with the instructions of the National Executive Branch (PEN), which is the one who sets the policies and not the CFP. For example, article 7 of Law 24,922, indicates in subsection a) that the Enforcement Authority "conducts and executes the national fisheries policy, regulating exploitation, inspection and investigation" and, this is logical, because it is a mere secretary of the PEN, who by article 99 of the National Constitution is, among other powers, "the political person responsible for the general administration of the country and who issues the instructions and regulations that are necessary for the execution of the laws of the Nation...; Despite this, article 9 of this law indicates that the functions of the CFP will be: «a) Establish the national fishing policy; b) Establish the fisheries research policy, etc. functions that are not assigned even to the secretary of the branch. A true legal inconsistency and weakening of the secretary's tasks.

On the other hand, in subsection c) of Law 24,922, this Council is assigned the function of "establishing the Maximum Allowable Catches by species, zone and fleet, taking into account the maximum sustainable yield of each of them, according to data provided. by INIDEP", a matter that the CFP due to its integration is not sufficiently qualified and it is INIDEP itself that must establish the Maximum Sustainable Catch, being a biological determination that cannot be determined by a political body.

Furthermore, the relationship between the Enforcement Authority and the CFP adds costs and bureaucracy to the State, with the consequent production costs and delays in administration processes.

We understand that the granting of access permits, quotas and/or capture authorizations in the EEZ or on the high seas must be in the hands of the PEN to make the granting of these concessions transparent and should take into account compliance by the concessionaire with the fishing program. approved and audited by the Enforcement Authority. In 2024 the “Catch Quotas” will be renewed and this required a Fishing Plan, an Authority with character, vision for the future and, very importantly: honesty . The official designated for such a task should not be “recommended” by any company.

It is also necessary to establish greater business sustainability and resource sustainability. The granting of Quotas and Capture Authorizations and of “Quota Reserves” cannot be left to the discretion of the official on duty and any granting must be accompanied by a project that ensures a “Fisheries Economic Unit”, to prevent the big fish eats the small fish as has been happening in recent decades.

By the way, there is much more to say regarding the capture of resources; Aquaculture; the industrialization of discards; internal consumption; export; control of the territory, regarding fishing and administration and research costs; sustainable catches; the ports; the naval industry etc.; However, we believe that resolving these aforementioned issues will address the issues discussed by Bioeconomy Secretary Vilella of modernizing the organization, facilitating investment to double exports and improving communications .”Finally we understand that Fisheries is in charge of the administration of the State and, as we have said, it is the governments that have misused the capture rights (and we will have to talk about it in the future) and other concessionaires. ; regardless of whether the rules for granting concessions must be reformulated to ensure the self-financing of the administration (research, conservation, distribution and control), sustainability of the exploitation of the concessionaire companies and the regime of requirements of the specifications, since they do not Low added values in exports, predation or discards in capture and a high percentage of informal work in the industry or compensation of any nature are possible, masking wages and prices.

By Agenda Malvinas


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