British government expands presence in Argentine Sea near Malvinas

The UK enlarged the area where fishing is banned on the grounds of environmental concerns. The Argentine government has yet to make a public statement

Malvinas Islands. Credit: Wikipedia

The British government has enlarged the area surrounding the South Georgia and South Sandwich islands near the Malvinas where fishing is banned, unilaterally advancing its presence in the Argentine Sea. The Argentine government told the Herald it has filed a formal complaint but has yet to make a public statement.

The decision was first announced by the Commissioner for South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands on February 26, but the information only reached the Argentine public in recent days.

This decision effectively adds over 160,000 square kilometers (km2) of “No Take Zones” — an area where fishing is banned for environmental reasons — to the Marine Protected Area surrounding the islands. This means the surface the U.K. claims to be protecting from indiscriminate fishing activity is now 450,000 km2 surrounding the islands.

The South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands are two groups of islands located roughly 1300 kilometers south east of the Malvinas in the South Atlantic Ocean. The U.K. currently occupies the two and Argentina claims sovereignty over them along with the Malvinas.

A source from the Argentine Foreign Ministry told the Herald that government authorities had presented a formal complaint. However, the Herald could not access the document to verify its contents.

“This is a unilateral decision over a territory Argentina is claiming sovereignty over,” former Malvinas, Antarctica, and Southern Atlantic Secretary Guillermo Carmona told the Herald, adding that the decision is more likely related to geopolitical interests than environmental concerns. 

“They dress up as environmentalists in the South Georgias,” he said, “but allow indiscriminate fishing in the Malvinas, looting the resources with a high environmental impact.”

Limits of the “No Take Zone”: Credit: Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

According to Carmona, the U.K.’s move is against several international agreements, such as a 1976 UN General Assembly resolution that bans unilateral decisions in the area as long as the sovereignty dispute remains unresolved. 

It also violates a convention from the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) for the preservation of living marine Antarctic resources, which says all of the commission’s members — including Argentina — should have participated in the decision, Carmona mentioned. It should also be noted that the Marine Protected Area was established unilaterally by the British government in 2012, and that Argentine authorities have formally complained about it on several occasions.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron recently visited the Malvinas and said the islands’ sovereignty “is not up for discussion.” Argentine Foreign Minister Diana Mondino later met with him in Rio de Janeiro and “expressed dissatisfaction” with Cameron’s visit. She later wrote an ironic post on X thanking him for visiting Argentine territory, referencing his short trip to Malvinas, but did not file any formal complaint.

In late November, Vice Foreign Secretary David Rutley also visited the Malvinas.  Carmona, who was still in office as Malvinas secretary, formally condemned him. However, Rutley was also invited to President Javier Milei’s inauguration and later visited Malvinas again, and the new government did not express any opinion on this.

“British diplomacy never rests,” Carmona warned. “When Argentine governments lowered the intensity of the [sovereignty] claim, they took the chance to advance [in their colonialist purposes]. This is what is happening now.”

Editorial disclaimer

Although the UK refers to the Malvinas territory as the “Falklands Islands,” Argentina strongly contests this name. The Buenos Aires Herald refers to the islands as the Malvinas Islands.


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