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Saturday, July 2, 2022

US-UK diplomatic friction over fishing in Malvinas

Miami ( Associated Press) — It is one of the most expensive fish in the world. It sells for $32 per pound (450 g) in Whole Foods supermarkets across the United States and is served in the finest restaurants.

However, Russia’s impediment to efforts to protect the species and Patagonia’s refusal to accept fishing limits for Patagonian toothfish in a protected area has sparked a fishing controversy in the corner of the world that two old allies, causing friction between the United States. and United Kingdom.

The previously open diplomatic dispute intensified when Britain this year granted fishing licenses for toothfish off South Georgia, a remote, uninhabited, UK-controlled island that lies almost halfway from Malvinas (Falklands for English). 1,400 km east.

As a result, for the first time since governments banded together to protect marine life near the South Pole 40 years ago, deep-sea fishing is taking place this season for the sharp-toothed fish that can be caught. There is no limit on the amount. can catch which are generally determined by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, or CCAMLR.

It overnight changed the dynamics of one of the best managed fishing areas in the world. A maritime zone the size of France has become lawless, at least in the eyes of US officials, who are threatening to ban British imports from the region.

“In a world full of conflict, the UK plays a dangerous game,” said Will McCallum, director of oceans at Greenpeace’s British affiliate. “The history of Antarctic conservation has been characterized by peaceful cooperation for the common good of humanity. Russia’s continued readiness to abuse the process does not constitute an excuse for unilateral action by other members. We hope that the South Georgia sharptooth fish in the east The importing nations of the U.S. will not accept the product which is now an unregulated fisheries.”

For years, fishing off South Georgia was an example of international cooperation that brought together normally hostile powers such as Russia, China, and the United States, aimed at eliminating the large-scale fishing seen in the open ocean. The water had to be protected. ,

Last year, as tensions were rising with the West over Ukraine, Russia decided to reject toothfish fishing limits set by CCAMLR scientists. This measure was equivalent to a unilateral veto as traditionally unanimous solutions are sought.

There are those who say that the United Kingdom’s response, which issued the license without the limits set by the CCAMLR, is illegal and undermines the Antarctic Treaty approved during the Cold War that declared the Antarctic continent an area of ​​scientific interest.

US officials have privately told Britain that they are likely to ban the import of toothfish caught near South Georgia, according to correspondence between managers of fishing companies and US lawmakers seen by the Associated Press.

The dispute indicates that Russia’s efforts to undermine the West have traditionally reached the most remote regions on the edge of geopolitical fighting.

There is also a risk of reviving tensions between Britain and Argentina, who invaded South Georgia in 1982 as part of a campaign to retake the Falklands.

The controversy comes as the world’s fish stocks are declining due to overfishing and consumers are calling for more transparency about the origins of their fillets. In these efforts, it is important to have laws that regulate fishing in the open ocean and in areas where the environment is at risk, such as the two poles.

“It sets a dangerous precedent,” said Evan Bloom, who led the US delegation to the CCAMLR for 15 years, until retiring from the State Department in 2020.

“What the Russians did clearly violate the spirit of science-based fishing,” said Bloom, who is now an expert on polar issues at the Wilson Center in Washington. “But that,” he added, “doesn’t necessarily mean the UK can act unilaterally.”

Three of the four UK-authorized vessels to fish off South Georgia from 1 May are owned by the British-Norwegian company Argos Frynes, which is in efforts to develop techniques that significantly reduce seabird mortality in the South Atlantic. I was in the forefront.

One of its customers is Mark Foods, a New York company that is one of the main US suppliers of Patagonian toothfish certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, which sets international standards for sustainable fishing.

Its chief executive Barry Markman declined to be interviewed, but said the company would not import any products that US officials consider illegal.

“We are cooperating with US officials to resolve this amicably,” he said in an email.

South Georgia toothfish is sold by Whole Foods and Darden Restaurants, an Orlando firm that operates expensive restaurant chains such as Eddie V’s and The Capital Grille. Neither company responded to requests for comment.

An official in the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands government, which issued the license in coordination with the UK foreign secretary, said it had taken steps not to give in to Russia’s obstructionist strategy that it does not expect. will be abandoned.

This fishing area is one of the best managed in the world. South Georgia has set a limit lower than the limit recommended by the CCAMLR. In addition, vessels authorized to fish in the area have observers and tamper-proof electronic equipment to see what is happening.

Officials say suspending fishing in that area would deprive the island of resources to investigate and monitor fishing activity, as 70% of the island’s budget comes from license sales.

They point out that populations of the Patagonian toothfish, a deep-sea species capable of living for 50 years, were nearly extinct in the 1990s due to illegal fishing driven by high prices. Some toothfish weigh up to 90 kg (100 lb).

However, thanks to the multinational efforts of CCAMLR, the species survived.


Goodman is at @APJoshGoodman


This article was financially supported by the Walton Family Foundation. Associated Press is solely responsible for the content.


The Associated Press Investigation Team can be contacted at Investigative@ap.org or at https://www.ap.org/tips/.

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