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 From Argentina to the world, 10 June 2021

The new memorandum of cooperation between Mundus maris asbl and Belgrano University in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was put into practice again in the occasion of World Ocean Day. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Dr Marcelo Lino Morales Yokobori, a webinar was organised in two sections, one focussing on the thorny issue of illegal, unrecorded and unregulated (IUU) fishing, the other on biodiversity and marine conservation.

More than one hundred participants followed the interesting presentations and interacted with the presenters and organisers.

Cornelia E Nauen of Mundus maris opened the round of IUU panel by defining the terms and illustrating the seriousness of the issue. This has kept FAO and its member states on the alert since the beginning of the new millennium. Fighting the scourge requires new levels of cooperation between national and international authorities and agencies at several levels. Phasing out harmful subsidies to long-distance fleets, long overdue after 20 years of negotiations in the World Trade Organization (WTO) is among the necessary measures. The resulting overfishing is one of the greatest threats to the ocean and jeopardizes the health, food security, and livelihoods of millions of people in coastal communities who depend on healthy, sustainable fisheries. Other crucial measures are to prohibit transhipment at sea and raise awareness among citizens that IUU fishing is a criminal offence often associated with other crimes, such as human rights abuses, arms and drug running and thus bringing much harm to people and planet. The slides (in Spanish) are here.

Eduardo Pucci of the Argentinean shipowner association for sustainable fishing in the South Atlantic (OPRAS) placed the attention on the operation of massive fleets of several hundred vessels appearing since a few years along Latin American Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) during the fishing seasons for squid and other resources. Nominally operating on the high seas and not in formal infraction of international rules, the sheer catching power of these fleets, not bound by any rules and suspected to often trespas into EEZs after turning off the VHS signals pulled the rug under any attempts of national and regional fisheries management authorities to maintain resources in a healthy state and sustainable.

Gabriel Blanco shared insights from his long involvement with observer programmes at sea.

The entire topic drew lots of interest and questions as Argentina is very directly suffering from IUU fishing and incursions of armadas of mostly Asian fleets as we reported repeatedly on our social media. The recording of the panel session is available here.

The second panel on biodiversity was different but equally attractive as speakers made their key points in very captivating ways. Alejandra Volpedo, from Universidad de Buenos Aires, showed the immense diversity of cartilaginous and bony fishes in the Southwest Atlantic waters. She also emphasized the importance of working in interdisciplinary teams and in international cooperation. You can check the fish out in FishBase. She strongly encouraged the students to pursue their dreams and to continue with commitment in their studies. She yielded lots of grateful text messages. She closed her presentation with a painting of Joaquín Sorolla, Running along the beach, and words of Julio Cortazar.

This offered the moderator an opportunity to introduce Patricia Morales of Mundus maris. She in turn introduced Clara Ackermann and her Orquesta Juvenil de San Telmo, the musicians who prepared two videos for this year's Mundus maris World Ocean Day celebrations: one is a Letter from the ocean to the humans and the other is the Response from the humans to the ocean

Diego Rodriguez of Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata demonstrated how big our knowledge gaps about marine biodiversity are and that careful investigations are warranted to devise effective protection and management measures. He showed the complexity of the ocean environment as a three-dimensional space, where species adaptations required capabilities for multidirectional movements. He mentioned that marine biodiversity is higher than terrestrial diversity at superior taxon levels but lower at species levels. The slides are here
Nadia Cerino is probably the only expert in Argentinean corals. Even Argentinean participants were surprised to find out that corals, both hard and soft, occur at these latitudes. She convincingly made the point that we need to learn more about bottom dwelling species in the South Atlantic waters. These ecosystem "engineering" species are affected by bottom trawling and may be destroyed before they are properly studied. Watch the recording of the full session here.