Early this week, on either Monday or Tuesday, Argentina’s coast guard sank a Chinese fishing boat that it claimed was fishing illegally in a restricted area near Puerto Madryn. The Argentine Naval Prefecture, the country’s maritime police force, chased and sank the Lu Yan Yuan Yu 010 fishing vessel. According to Argentine officials, the Chinese ship was fishing within Argentina’s exclusive economic zone.
The Argentine Naval Prefecture released a video of its pursuit of the Chinese vessel on YouTube:
According to a statement released by the Agentine Naval Prefecture, the coast guard vessel in pursuit of the Lu Yan Yuan Yu 010 fired warning shots after attempting to establish radio contact. The Chinese fishing boat then reportedly turned off its lights and tried to evade the coast guard vessel. Ultimately, the statement notes that the Lu Yan Yuan Yu 010 attempted dangerous maneuvers, including an attempt to collide with the coast guard vessel in pursuit.
Following a collision attempt, the Argentine vessel – likely a Mantilla-class offshore patrol vessel – sank the fishing boat. The crew of the Chinese boat survived and was safely rescued. Three fishermen and the fishing boat’s captain were recovered by the Argentine coast guard while others boarded a nearby fishing boat.
Argentine authorities have notified the Chinese government of the incident. “The Foreign Ministry and Chinese embassy in Argentina have already lodged emergency representations with the Argentinian side and expressed serious concern about the incident, demanding Argentina launch an immediate probe and report on the details to China,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement. Chinese fishing vessels conduct similar activities all over the world.
In fact, in 2013, Argentine authorities caught an illegal Chinese fishing boat hoarding 180 tonnes of fresh squid caught in Argentina’s exclusive economic zone. Additionally, as the New York Times‘ Ian Urbina recently reported, Chinese poachers pose similar problems for the maritime authorities of small Pacific Island nations. Closer to home, in the South China Sea, China’s rapidly expanding fishing fleet has encountered similar friction with neighboring states.
It’s unknown what precisely the fishermen involved in Tuesday’s incident had caught or were in the process of catching, but this is far from the first time Chinese fishermen have been at the center of illegal fishing disputes far from Chinese shores.
Both Argentina and China are parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS), which defines exclusive economic zones as areas “beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea” where a coastal state has special sovereign rights, including for the exploration and exploitation of natural resources.