Falklands waters are noted for their high productivity, and for the sustainable management of the fisheries. Squid usually account for around 75% of annual catches of some 200,000 tonnes, and are destined for markets in Europe and the Far East. The remainder of the catches consist of various finfish species including Rock Cod, Hake, Hoki and Toothfish.
A comprehensive presentation regarding Fisheries and Natural Resources can be downloaded here. This presentation was given by the Director of Natural Resources, John Barton, to members of the public on 15th September 2014.
Illex argentinus squid are fished principally by specialist squid jigging vessels from the Far East. Doryteuthis gahi squid are fished mainly by trawlers registered in the Falklands and owned jointly by Falklands and European companies. There are 20 ocean going fishing vessels registered in Stanley. Squid stocks can be quite volatile due to their one year life cycle, but in a good year the Falklands can supply around 10% of the world squid supply.
The period 1987 – 2012 represents the first 25 years of the fisheries regime around the Falklands. The fishery has been very successful during this period. The revenue generated by the fishery has been critical to the development of the modern day Falklands. Fisheries revenue has averaged around £20 Million per annum. Some £6 Million is spent each year on fisheries protection and research.
To ensure that conservation targets are achieved, fishing effort is controlled by limiting the number of vessels licensed to fish within the zone. Additional restrictions include closed areas and seasons to protect spawning squid and, in the case of finfish, a minimum mesh size is imposed. Catch data is collected from all vessels on a daily basis. To protect against poachers, the waters are patrolled by Falkland Islands Government aircraft and an armed fishery protection vessel. The intent has been to ensure long term sustainability of resources and this has largely been achieved for those resources which occur mainly in Falkland Island waters.
Falkland Islands fisheries law was substantially revised and re-stated in 2005; this was the first major revision of fisheries law since the introduction of the Fishing Zone in 1987. The new law enables and regulates a new system of transferable fishing rights. It has also provided the opportunity to update fisheries law incorporating a number of international developments particularly in relation to the conservation of marine resources. This new fisheries law creates a more rational economic environment for Falkland Island fishing companies to operate in. It should encourage investment and development of the fisheries sector.
In 2008, a academic study conducted Mora, et al, Management Effectiveness of World Marine Fisheries (2008) ranked Falkland Islands fisheries as one of the best-managed in the world, in terms of scientific robustness, government transparency and environmental sustainability.
Most fish stocks fished by the Falklands are also fished in Argentina and are shared stocks to some degree. D. gahi squid is one exception which is almost entirely caught in Falkland waters, whereas Illex squid in addition to being shared with Argentina is also subject to a major fishery on the high seas. Management of these shared and straddling resources would ideally involve a bilateral or regional approach. During the period 1990 – 2005 there was a constructive bilateral arrangement between Britain and Argentina, together with Falkland’s participation. This was the South Atlantic Fisheries Commission (SAFC). The SAFC facilitated the exchange of fisheries data, joint research cruises, joint scientific analysis, and recommended co-ordinated conservation advice to respective governments. For 15 years it worked as quite an effective conservation organisation and might have provided the stepping stone to some regional fisheries management organisation. The latter would be particularly relevant to the management of what can be a very large Illex resource. Unfortunately, Argentina disengaged from this process in 2005 and consequently it has been impossible to maintain a co-operative approach to fisheries conservation.
The 2013 Loligo fishery season was the best on record since the fisheries opened in 1987.