In early January 2022, the Maritime Joint Command (CCM, in Spanish), under the Argentine Armed Forces’ Joint Chiefs of Staff, initiated its operations. For the first time, the agency brings together the Argentine Army, Navy, and Air Force to combat maritime crimes, such as illegal fishing, and to control the sea and riverine areas of the South American country.
The CCM was created in February 2021 in response to a need for an organization to conduct permanent surveillance and control operations in maritime and riverine areas, carry out search and rescue operations, and monitor maritime traffic, the Argentine Ministry of Defense said in a mid-December 2021 statement.
In addition to aircraft and airspace technology support, the CCM will conduct its operational tasks with the ocean patrol vessels ARA Bouchard, ARA Piedrabuena, and ARA Storni, among other naval units, equipped with state-of-the-art sensors and weapons systems, the Ministry of Defense said.
The CCM also aims to strengthen control and patrolling in Argentina’s exclusive economic zone, where the Chinese fishing fleet transits, the statement said.
“This command will have the mission of supervising the presence of ships and vessels in the Argentine 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone. It will count on the participation of the three Armed Forces to watch over our waters and prevent activities that deplete our seas,” Argentine Minister of Defense Jorge Taiana said, during a visit to the CCM in late December, the Argentine news portal Télam reported.
“In the course of this year , we have equipped the Command with state-of-the-art technology and equipment to guarantee its proper functioning,” the minister said in a Ministry of Defense statement.
In December 2021, reports pointed to the entry of hundreds of fishing vessels, mostly Chinese-flagged, through the Strait of Magellan. “This migratory cycle has been repeating itself year after year. You can see that between the months of June and November, the fishing fleets position themselves in the Indian Ocean and in the Pacific Ocean. Then, between December and May they arrive in the South Atlantic, on both sides. This situation, which we have perfectly studied, now allows us to plan ahead of time for the course of action to take,” Argentine Navy Rear Admiral Norberto Pablo Varela, CCM commander, said, the Argentine news portal Infobae reported.
In a September 2021 investigation, the AP news agency reported that the number of Chinese-flagged fishing vessels engaged in squid fishing in the South Pacific had increased from 54 active vessels in 2009 to 557 in 2020, while their catches increased from 70,000 tons in 2009 to 358,000 in 2020.
According to the Global Illegal Fishing Index, updated in December 2021, China ranks worst as the country most likely to engage in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says IUU fishing affects all aspects and stages of the capture and utilization of fish and can be associated with organized crime.