Developments since the 87/88 Fisheries Report
i) Falkland Islands Outer Conservation Zone (FOCZ)
Perhaps the most significant development in the intervening period since the initial 87/88 report, relates to the declaration of the Falkland Islands Outer Conservation Zone (FOCZ), and at the same time the setting up of the South Atlantic Fisheries Commission (SAFC) in 1991. The FOCZ was introduced on 26th December 1990, and extends beyond the FICZ to the north, east and south of the Falkland Islands to 200 miles, measured from coastal baselines.
ii) South Atlantic Fisheries Commission (SAFC)
The SAFC is composed of delegations from Britain and Argentina with participation of observers from the Falkland Islands as part of the British delegation. The SAFC provides a forum for exchanging information on marine living resources, and for the discussion and implementation of measures to improve the conservation of commercially significant stocks in the southwest Atlantic. The first and second meetings of the SAFC took place in May and December of 1991 in Buenos Aires and London respectively. Meetings have continued at regular intervals with the 12th meeting taking place in Buenos Aires in November 1996.
iii) Voluntary Restraint Agreements (VRA)
Another important feature of the intervening years since the 87/88 report, was the development of the Voluntary Restraint Policy through Voluntary Restraint Agreements (VRA). It increasingly became apparent that despite the introduction of the FICZ that the widely distributed and highly migratory Illex squid required further protection. The VRAs were conceived as a means of reducing fishing effort directed at Illex on the high seas and in the Southwest Atlantic generally. The VRAs have had moderate success in improving conservation of Illex by controlling the activities of a number of major fishing fleets on the high seas. Since 1993, when the Argentine zone opened to foreign fishing (see Argentine developments) it has proved too difficult to maintain the VRA policy. In order to be effective a similar policy would need to be adopted by Argentina.
iv) Licence Conditions
A more gradual but nonetheless significant development in the operation and control of the fishery has been the general reduction in fishing effort, the introduction and refinement of licence types and constant review of licence conditions. The requirement for such changes has come about in the light of experience and through appropriate analysis of the comprehensive data collected since the introduction of the FICZ. In the early years of the fishery (87 - 89) reductions in licensees for the squid species Loligo gahi led to a large demand for licensees to catch hake for which there had previously been little demand. As data was acquired on the hake fishery, it became apparent that fishing effort needed to be reduced, which has been done. The general reduction in the number of licensees for Loligo gahi and hake has resulted in increased interest in some of the previously under-utilised species which is likely to continue. Despite the reduction in fishing effort there have been periods when major squid markets have been over supplied. This has reduced interest in licensees at times although demand for licensees has generally remained strong. New licence types have been introduced, specifically for skate (Rajidae) and Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides).
v) Commercial Activity
The style and extent of private sector commercial activity has also changed. The 87/88 report described the operation of Stanley Fisheries Limited, which as a subsidiary of the Falkland Islands Development Corporation (FIDC) was set up to enter into joint venture agreements to develop the commercial side of the fishing industry in the Falkland Islands, and to provide supporting services for that industry. Following the well publicised collapse of the Seamount Limited joint venture, it was decided to withdraw from the entire joint venture system. Since then, the Falkland Islands Government (FIG) has sought to develop and stimulate Falkland Islands involvement in the fishery through a series of policy statements. The policy has attempted to maintain a number of the partnerships formed during the time that the joint venture scheme was in place and encouraged the development of new partnerships with Falkland Islands' companies. The main purpose of the policy has been to promote and develop a commercial fisheries sector within the economy of the Falkland Islands. The policy has also sought to create opportunities for Falkland Island companies and residents. Whilst the policy has allowed a variety of commercial arrangements, joint ventures and vessel ownership have proved the most popular. There are currently 13 vessels on the Falkland Islands register and their number is slowly increasing.
vi) Argentine Developments
The Argentine exclusive economic zone lies to the west of the Falkland Islands conservation zones. A number of important species have a transboundary distribution or migration and of these the most important are the squid Illex argentinus and the Southern blue whiting Micromesistius australis. Stocks of both species are shared between the Falkland Islands and Argentina, together with the high seas beyond 200 miles in the case of Illex. As a consequence developments in the Argentine fishery have some potential to impact on the Falkland Islands fishery. In this context the development of the Argentine Illex fishery in 1993 has had a significant impact. Prior to 1993 catches of Illex in the Argentine zone were relatively low ; 46,000 tonnes in 1991. In 1993 Argentina started allowing foreign flag vessels into her zone to catch Illex and also started building up her domestic fleet. As a result catches increased to a record 260,000 tonnes in the Argentine zone in 1996. The opening of the Argentine zone in 1993 gave boat owners more choice as to fishing grounds. Lower licence fees in Argentina together with generous export subsidies, and the absence of VRA made Argentine licensees appear more attractive. The main point of concern for the Falkland Islands is whether the increase in effort can be justified. From the Falkland Island's viewpoint the total level of effort directed at Illex including that on the high seas is too high. There needs to be a reduction. This assessment is borne out by the results of joint United Kingdom/Argentine research cruises. Additionally in recent years both Argentina and the Falkland Islands have closed their respective fisheries for Illex earlier than the scheduled end to the season, in order to conserve stocks.
vii) High Seas
The Falkland Island Government introduced a High seas fishing ordinance in 1995. This ordinance makes provision for the implementation of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) agreement to promote compliance with international conservation and management measures by fishing vessels on the high seas. It also makes provision for implementing the United Nations agreement relating to the conservation of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks. As a consequence all fishing vessels registered in the Falkland Islands require licensees to fish on the high seas. They are obliged to provide daily position reports together with details of their catches.