An Oceana analysis found hundreds of foreign fishing vessels, primarily Chinese, pillaging the waters off Argentina and disappearing from public tracking systems. These distant-water fleets mainly fish for shortfin squid, which are vital to Argentina’s economy and the diet of numerous commercial and recreational species, such as tuna and swordfish.
Oceana analyzed the activity of fishing vessels along the border of Argentina’s national waters from January 1, 2018, to April 25, 2021, using Automatic Identification System (AIS) data from Global Fishing Watch (GFW), an independent nonprofit founded by Oceana in partnership with Google and SkyTruth. AIS devices transmit information such as a vessel’s name, flag state, and location. Of the fishing visible on GFW, Oceana documented over 800 foreign vessels logging more than 900,000 total hours of apparent fishing. The analysis also revealed that 69% of this fishing activity was conducted by more than 400 Chinese vessels. In comparison to the foreign fleets, 145 of Argentina’s fishing vessels conducted 9,269 hours of visible fishing in this area during the same period — less than 1% of the total amount.
As part of this analysis, Oceana documented more than 6,000 gap events, instances where AIS transmissions are not detected for more than 24 hours, which potentially indicates vessels are disabling their public tracking devices. These vessels were invisible for more than 600,000 total hours, hiding fishing vessel locations and masking potentially illegal behavior, such as crossing into Argentina’s national waters to fish. The Chinese fleet was responsible for 66% of these incidents.