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Chinese Fishing Fleet Going ‘Dark’ as it Plunders Argentina’s Waters

Chinese Fishing Fleet Going ‘Dark’ as it Plunders Argentina’s Waters

Chinese fishing vessels switch off their tracking beacons to evade detection while sailing into Argentina’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

In the summer of 2020, I reported that a fleet of Chinese fishing ships plundered the ecologically sensitive waters off of Ecuador, including the iconic Galapagos Islands.

These ships continue to target to coastal waters of South America. The boats go “dark” by turning off tracking equipment as they sail into Argentina’s national waters.

Giant distant-water fishing fleets, primarily from China, are switching off their tracking beacons to evade detection while they engage in a possibly illegal hunt for squid and other lucrative species on the very edge of Argentina’s extensive fishing grounds, according to a new study by Oceana, an international NGO dedicated to ocean conservation.

…By monitoring the ships’ tracking beacons between January 2018 and April 2021, Oceana found that more than 800 vessels apparently conducted nearly 900,000 hours of fishing within 20 nautical miles of the invisible border between Argentina’s national waters and the high seas.

“During this three-and-a-half-year period, there were over 6,000 instances in which these fishing vessels appeared to go ‘dark’ by potentially disabling their electronic tracking devices, known as Automatic Identification Systems (AIS),” says the report, published on Wednesday, titled, Now You See Me, Now You Don’t: Vanishing Vessels Along Argentina’s Waters.

In all, these vessels were “hidden” for over 600,000 hours during which Oceana suspects they crossed over into Argentina’s territorial waters for illegal fishing.

“It’s very suspicious that they have their AIS turned off for such a large proportion of the time they are out fishing,” said Marla Valentine, an ecologist at Oceana, an international NGO dedicated to ocean conservation.

The incursion into Argentina’s Exclusive Economic Zone would be astonishing if any other nation did it. But it is clear China does not follow rules that do not suit its purposes.

Argentina’s commercial fishing industry constitutes 3.4% of the country’s gross domestic product and is worth about $2.7 billion. The industry is mostly driven by the catch of four species: Argentine shortfin squid, Argentine red shrimp, Argentine hake (Merluccius hubbsi), and Patagonian grenadier (Macruronus magellanicus). The shortfin squid fishery in and of itself is the second-largest in the world, generating an average of $597 million each year for South America’s economy.

Foreign vessels are not allowed to fish within Argentina’s EEZ without proper authorization, but they can legally fish beyond the EEZ in the high seas.

Nations, including Argentina, targeted by the Chinese fishing fleet are beginning to take action.

Indonesia, where officials described Chinese fishing as “transnational organized crime,” has blown up at least one Chinese fishing boat. African countries have detained and fined Chinese vessels, and Ecuador jailed a Chinese crew caught with 300 tons of illegally caught fish.

Chile and Argentina have both had run-ins with Chinese fishing vessels. Argentina’s coast guard has chased, fired on, and sunk Chinese vessels it said were fishing illegally in Argentine waters.


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JusticeDelivered | June 8, 2021 at 3:19 pm

Does China provide military ocver for this, because if they did, destroying those ships would better than just sinking the fishing vessels.

    stevewhitemd in reply to JusticeDelivered. | June 8, 2021 at 5:53 pm

    The PLA Navy does not, as far as I know, have any fleet presence in the South Atlantic. I suppose that if the Argentine Navy (small, underfunded, and poorly equipped) were to start sinking fishing boats that the PLA Navy might respond; they do have modern frigates and destroyers, and could, with fleet ship support from tankers, etc., make it there.

    Having the Argentine Navy seize a few fishing boats would certainly get the point across, but again, they don’t really have that capacity. This is why the Chinese fishing fleets sail to places like this (also see Somalia, Mozambique, etc.). Easier to fish to your heart’s content when you won’t get caught or disciplined.

      alohahola in reply to stevewhitemd. | June 8, 2021 at 9:24 pm

      Opportunists do that sort of thing.

      buck61 in reply to stevewhitemd. | June 8, 2021 at 11:17 pm

      losing a few boats is just the cost of doing (illegal) business

      Arminius in reply to stevewhitemd. | June 10, 2021 at 8:02 am

      Monroe Doctrine, anyone? I’d be really concerned about this, except I’m more focused on killing the wolf closest to the sled. And right now that’s the American wing of the CCP. The Democrats.

      Seriously. Can you people stop allowing the enemy to take over while I’m deployed overseas? I am literally getting too old for this s***.

    ConradCA in reply to JusticeDelivered. | June 8, 2021 at 9:02 pm

    The solution is a couple of hundred prop driven armed planes who can find and sink the fishing boats.

    Carey Allison in reply to JusticeDelivered. | June 9, 2021 at 1:08 pm

    Argentina does not have a navy or coast guard that can effectively respond. Do they have an air force? Sinking or strafing and disabling all the unarmed trawlers they can find should not represent much threat of air force losses, and give them time to develop at least an effective coast guard – they wouldn’t need a blue water navy. Treat the interlopers as invaders and sink them.

    Yes, I’m aware that China could then send it’s developing blue water navy across the Pacific to “guard” the illegal trawlers. I suspect that the cost of that enterprise would more than outweigh the economic benefits of the poached fish, and in the meantime Argentina could fairly quickly develop and deploy naval mines that would greatly discourage the entry of either trawlers or blue-water warships into waters they choose to protect. The USN could offer support, and the Chinese would find out the difference between having a real blue-water fleet that can effectively engage anywhere in the world, and their current, largely coastal defense fleet.

    Or, Argentina can just bend over and take that yellow insertion with a grimace. Perhaps if Argentina isn’t too offensive about it, China would agree to some K-Y?

What this means is that when you buy fish, shrimp and squid caught in Argentinia it actually comes fom China just like everything else.

    CaptTee in reply to UserP. | June 9, 2021 at 11:34 pm

    The next time you go grocery shopping look at the labels on the frozen fish. If they are from China, complain to the management about what they are supporting!

Keep sinking them.

    JusticeDelivered in reply to alohahola. | June 8, 2021 at 4:15 pm

    I bet if they started losing 10% of those ships per trip. that there would be far less problems.

    Danny in reply to alohahola. | June 8, 2021 at 9:42 pm

    If you think Joe Biden would protect Argentina from a Chinese retaliation when they move to defend their territorial waters I would like to remind you not all substances are legal.

Morning Sunshine | June 8, 2021 at 3:33 pm

how is this NOT an act of war?

    JusticeDelivered in reply to Morning Sunshine. | June 8, 2021 at 4:17 pm

    It is, a response should probably be covert, say unexplaines loss militay or cargo ships.

    stevewhitemd in reply to Morning Sunshine. | June 8, 2021 at 5:54 pm

    It’s not an act of war; it’s poaching and generally is handled by a coast guard. We have one of those, Argentina really doesn’t.

      Brave Sir Robbin in reply to stevewhitemd. | June 8, 2021 at 11:20 pm

      But we could do things for them, like fly maritime patrol aircraft to identify the vessels and vector Argentinian boarding parties.

      Also, I doubt these vessels can sail back to China non-stop. It is likely they need to fuel somewhere. We could get everyone to deny vessels engaged in poaching access to ports for fuel. The Chinese would need to figure out a way to get fuel from China to somewhere in the eastern or central Pacific and refuel these ships at sea.

      This would require some diplomatic effort, but we could get Kamala right on that.

        Yes, we could do that.
        If we had a vigorous, law-oriented, reality-based foreign policy.
        Instead we have Foggy Bottom and the Harris-Biden admin.

AIS is new and sort of optional. It’s to avoid collisions and allow shore authorities to track ships. If you don’t want the latter, obviously you turn it off. Not an outrage exactly.

If people didn’t like USA hegemony, just wait for China to be ascendant.

China violates everybody’s exclusive economic zone. It’s a sort of “we do it our way” principle for them.

Y’know, sometimes I almost admire China’s blatant contempt for every norm of civilized behavior. It’s as if they’re determined to piss off the entire planet.

    irv in reply to Evil Otto. | June 8, 2021 at 4:43 pm

    I don’t think so. They’re convinced that it doesn’t matter what they do, because no one has the cojones to stop them.

    And they’re probably right.

      Olinser in reply to irv. | June 8, 2021 at 4:46 pm


      They look at ‘civilized behavior’ as weakness on the part of the rest of the world.

      They don’t give a shit what you consider ‘civilized’.

      They’re going to do what they want to benefit themselves, and fuck everybody else.

        healthguyfsu in reply to Olinser. | June 8, 2021 at 5:13 pm

        They have allies in the US that also look at civilized behavior as weakness. They are called things like Antifa, BLM, and DSA.

      thetaqjr in reply to irv. | June 8, 2021 at 5:04 pm

      Folks with outsized cajones but with feeble means to protect them run a high risk of getting themselves castrated to impotence.

      Maybe the world can render China economically impotent by allowing its continuation of selling goods below fair market value, thereby bankrupting itself.

      All that money we save in those exchanges we can allocate to promoting the general welfare and to providing for the common defense.

      Is buying cheap and selling dear out of flavor now?

        UnCivilServant in reply to thetaqjr. | June 8, 2021 at 6:37 pm

        The stuff they sell ‘cheap’ is actually a false economy, where the level of quality causes you to have to pay more than you would if you’d bought quality to begin with. Plus, the undercutting is provided through the use of slave labor, which is a hefty cost savings for the communists.

          thetaqjr in reply to UnCivilServant. | June 9, 2021 at 5:04 pm

          My choice to buy cheap. If I find shoddy and unserviceable, I’ll know soon enough.

          The money I save in exchange I can use to support Browning with purchase of a firearm with which to defend my home and my white-privileged ass from Chinese, antifa and BLM invaders.

          If products arise from slave labor, then I’m still paying too much.

          I assume some of my money pays salaries to union longshoremen, union truckers, ups and fedex types.

      UserP in reply to irv. | June 10, 2021 at 1:04 pm

      They are pushing the envelope to see how far they can go and how much they can get away with. And they will keep doing it until they are stopped.

Confiscate the ships.

    Brave Sir Robbin in reply to Andy. | June 8, 2021 at 11:33 pm

    The UN already has a framework called the Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA). Under this framework, states can deny entry to port any vessel engaged in illegal fishing. This would either prohibit or greatly complicate the Chinese getting their fishing vessels and catch home.

    Another means to stop this is to allow vessels engaged in illegal fishing to enter a port, then swarm it with customs, health, and safety inspectors. Declare the cargo a health hazard, confiscate it, and destroy it. Then keep the ships in port undergoing mechanical and electrical inspections, document every conceivable problem, and not allow the vessel to leave port until all the issues have been satisfactorily resolved, much to the profit of local firms working in the ports that do inspection and repair work. Slow role all the paperwork, and you could keep the vessel their for months.

“Fishing.” Riiight. Soon I suspect we will see larger and larger “fishing” fleets near our own waters.

The ChiComs can operate with impunity anywhere, with the support of their allies in the White House. Slow Joe and his Bimbo in Waiting are so lacking in both leadership and backbone.

I am surprised the US MIC is not using this as an opportunity for a proxy war to fund naval weapon upgrades and testing.

That photo looks like a CG armada invasion – but it’s real. Terrifying.

The brazen obnoxiousness and belligerence of the Chinese communists never cease to amaze. Last time I checked, China was nowhere near Argentina, so, why the hell would their fishing vessels be fishing anywhere near South American waters, except as a bullying, muscle-flexing stunt to send a message that “we’ll act how we please, international law and norms of behavior be damned.” This is an evil regime, make no mistake. War is inevitable, with the way these bullies are acting, if history is any guide. They will have to be stopped, like any bully.

What the Chinese fishing ships are doing is tantamount to an invasion by sea. If the countries being invaded have naval vessels available they should sink every one of the invaders that can be gotten to. The rest of the world will probably support them, given that China itself has become a world scale problem.