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Juan Pablo Basavilbaso, managing Director of the Iberconsa Group of Argentina (Photo: courtesy of Revista Puerto)

On the shrimp season, the vision of Juan Pablo Basavilbaso from Iberconsa

Click on the flag for more information about Argentina ARGENTINA
Saturday, October 17, 2020, 00:10 (GMT + 9)

Extending two weeks beyond the limit recommended by INIDEP, it comes to an end with few boats in activity and meager yields. A year full of complications, in which the freezer sector was the hardest hit in terms of both catches and sales. Says Juan Pablo Basavilbaso.

The shrimp season in 2020 had many complications derived mainly from the Covid-19 pandemic but also due to union conflicts, less availability of the resource and long days of bad weather that were maintained until the end. As of September 30, 131,701 tons had been unloaded, which represents a decrease of 19% compared to last year and 32% compared to 2018.

At the end of the year these percentages will be higher given that the extension authorized for two weeks beyond October 1, the date recommended by INIDEP, did not allow the expected volume to be added. While in October 2019 21 thousand tons were caught and in 2018 about 33 thousand, this year it has not been possible to exceed 8 thousand tons.

The freezer shrimp trawlers (Photo: courtesy Revista Puerto)

The sector that showed the greatest interest in continuing to fish was the freezer, which suffered the strongest blow during 2020, seeing its catches drastically reduced; While the fresqueros increased their downloads by 17%, they saw their participation reduced by 53%, compared to last year.

"The companies that have freezing shrimp vessels needed these two weeks to continue fishing and we value the effort made by the authorities to understand this," says Juan Pablo Basavilbaso, head of Iberconsa Argentina. The businessman considers that the 20 thousand tons less of hake bycatch that were generated this year, gave arguments to authorize it.

The impact of Covid-19 complicated everyone in logistics but also in marketing. The price hit its floor below $ 5 a kilo and sales fell 60%. The effects of the Covid on tourism, gastronomy and catering were decisive. The tails, on the other hand, marketed by the fresh sector to be produced in third countries, increased sales volume by 5% and the price fell, but only by 7% in almost the whole year. Only at the end did sales and prices fall.

SOMU conflic (Photo: courtesy Revista Puerto)

The freezing vessels started the season a month later, due to the fact that the market situation discouraged the assembly of the ships because they did not give the costs and they appealed to an adaptation of the reference values ​​with which the seafarers were paid, which resulted in a prolonged conflict with SOMU in which there were moments of great tension with threats, roadblocks and loss of merchandise.

In the distance, Basavilbaso reflects on it. “It has been a very difficult year for all of us. Faced with the conflict with SOMU, we had a very real and genuine approach and so did they. They defended the workers' rights tooth and nail, they did not have it easy at all, they did what they could when faced with the possibility of not going fishing. In these situations of tension, things that you do not like usually happen, you do not have to justify them but you also have to understand in the context of despair in which they occurred, the situation was very difficult for everyone, for employers, for trade unionists and for workers. own workers ”.

These problems were compounded by natural factors that complicated the season: bad weather and reduced availability of resources. The shrimp fishery is changing and the fleet is at the beginning of the season with a higher volume of small fish. This prevented the establishment of many fishing areas within the Hake Ban and some 194 boats had to operate in confined spaces, making fishing maneuvers more complex.

Photo: courtesy Revista Puerto

The areas were surveyed and shortly after their opening was enabled, they were closed again due to the presence of non-commercial shrimp or hake bycach levels higher than 20% based on the data provided by the INIDEP observers.

Photo: courtesy INIDEP 

In the Institute's reports, both for shrimp and hake, the expansion of the staff of observers has been called for because it is too scarce to cover a representative percentage of the fleet. This year, between the problems of the coronavirus and the reduced budget, the situation worsened and, as is known, worse information translates into greater restrictions.

"The lack of observers complicated us because, not having enough information, we believe that areas were closed in advance, we had the intention that they would be prospecting again but we were not allowed, I do not think it was with ill will, but the issue of the observers is something that we have to solve”, points out Basabilbaso.

The season is over and now it is time to fix ships and try to sell the products that are in the chamber. In the last weeks of September the tails business had fallen, but in Europe buyers, who had just awakened from a prolonged slumber, began to demand whole shrimp, a fact that allowed prices to improve and give the freezer sector a little oxygen. Today, given the strong outbreaks, there is fear that sales will slow down again and that the price will fall again.

Photo: courtesy Iberconsa Group

This has been a very difficult year for everyone, the shrimp season has come to an end but the outlook remains uncertain. Taking the view of the urgent to look at the long term will be very difficult although necessary. Changes in the marine environment pose new scenarios in the future that will require other management measures, which has already been advanced by INIDEP and recent reports on the impact of climate change in the South Atlantic Ocean support it.

“We are a company that is committed to sustainability, which intends to be able to eternally fish for shrimp in these waters. But when it is suggested that it is necessary to restructure the management of a fishery based on changes in the environment, it should not be overlooked that many thousands of Argentines live from a fishery. It is necessary to carry out studies in which all sectors participate. I am much more concerned with what seismic surveys may generate than the possible drift of the current in Brazil, ”concludes the head of Iberconsa Argentina.

Autor:  Karina Fernandez / Revista Puerto



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