Mercopress, June 24th, 2004.-

South Atlantic fisheries "over exploited".

Argentina flatly refused European Union access to the South Atlantic fisheries given the delicate situation of the resource which is "over exploited".

In the framework of the current trade and cooperation Mercosur-EU talks, Brussels has been insisting that Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil open their fisheries to EU vessels but Argentine Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Secretary Miguel Campos told EU Agriculture Commissar Franz Fischler "this is impossible. Our resources are over exploited and there’s no room for more players".

"We’re in a position of maximum exploitation of resources", confirmed Gerardo Nieto, Fisheries Under-Secretary, adding that Argentina’s position was supported by other Mercosur members.

According to Argentine sources EU negotiators were requesting an EU flag recognition in the three countries EEZ "since the European fleet, particularly in Spain, is over dimensioned for current resources" and therefore the need for more areas.

Besides, Argentina has "a negative experience" when in 1994 it signed a fisheries cooperation agreement with the EU opening the South Atlantic to big Spanish factory vessels and endangering several species, mainly Hubbsi hake. Apparently many of those licences were awarded with "irregularities" which Argentine Justice is currently investigating.

"Hake still has to recover in spite of the several restrictions and bans enforced since 2002. This year’s hake quota is 400,000 tons, well below the average of the nineties", said Argentine fisheries sources.

Argentina is also concerned with the very poor catches of squid which this season were 75% below average forcing an early closure of the fishery recommended by the Mar del Plata Fisheries Research Institute, INIDEP.

Diminishing prawn catches have also attracted INIDEP’s interest which is planning a research cruise during the coming weeks.