Hundreds of boats, most of them Chinese, had hidden their movements near Argentinian waters during the last three years and were potentially engaged in illegal fishing in the lucrative area.
An analysis by the group Oceana of a maritime tracking system used for safety and traffic monitoring found that more than half of the foreign ships fishing near Argentina had turned off their tracking, hiding their activities, with the Chinese fleet responsible for 66 per cent of those incidents, South China Morning Post reported.Oceana's report, published on Wednesday stated that about 800 vessels, over half of them from China, logged nearly 900,000 hours of visible fishing activity via the Automatic Identification System (AIS) within 20 nautical miles of Argentina's waters between January 2018 and April 2021,
More than half of those boats "went dark" in over 6,200 "gap events", when their AIS was turned off for at least 24 hours, it said.
"You shouldn't be hiding where you are in the oceans when you're fishing," said Beth Lowell, the deputy vice-president for US campaigns at Oceana. "Why did they turn it off if they're doing something legal? They should be keeping their AIS on so the world can see what's happening.
"The vessels that disappeared along the edge of the national waters of Argentina could be pillaging its waters illegally," Lowell added.
Chinese ships have been converging around the waters of South American countries such as Argentina and Ecuador, with the massive Chinese fleet and instances of illegal fishing attracting criticism and involving run-ins with the law, SCMP reported.
Oceana analysts found that 173 - about 40 per cent - of Chinese vessels that fished near Argentina had transshipments within a month of their AIS being turned off.The Oceana report, which analysed data from NGO Global Fishing Watch, found that more than 430 mainland Chinese-flagged vessels were responsible for almost 70 per cent of visible fishing in Argentina's waters. Spanish, South Korean and Taiwanese ships accounted for about 26 per cent between them of the visible activities, while Argentinian ships conducted less than 1 per cent of the total fishing, SCMP reported.