If you're not familiar with it, this history of the Falklands/Maldivas makes for a fascinating read. The short version is that the United Kingdom and Argentina have been fighting over it, and so far the UK has won.
As far as the governments of the UK and of the Falkland Islands are concerned, there is no issue to resolve. The Falkland Islanders themselves are almost entirely British and maintain their allegiance to the United Kingdom.Okay, so what does this all have to do with squid? Well, that huge fishing economy is based primarily on two species of squid: Illex argentinus and Loligo gahi. Like most squid, both species have short lifespans and high fecundity (=make lots of babies), which gives them the potential to be a more sustainable fishery than something long-lived like an orange roughy or a whale.
But it also means their populations can fluctuate dramatically from one year to the next, depending on environmental conditions, fishing pressure, and sheer luck. They're difficult for fishery scientists to model and predict.
Last year, the Illex fishery crashed, and fingers are pointing across the channel.
Where once it was possible to catch 200,000 tonnes of squid in Falklands waters, in 2009 only 45 tonnes were found.What about Loligo? Can they make up the difference? Maybe so, since the Loligo fishers have just had the best season in ten years (the first of two seasons per years):
Argentina used to co-operate to ensure ample stocks in the region but in 2005 the Government of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner began allowing its fishermen huge catches."The Argentine fishery has had a large impact on illex squid," John Barton, director of the Falkland’s fisheries department, told The Times. Such a huge decline is likely to also be the result of fluctuating oceanographic conditions, but a lack of co-operation is all the more dangerous when stocks are down, he said.
Although the second 2010 loligo season starts on 15 July, it is tricky to gauge the level of availability of the squid, according to Director of Natural Resources John Barton. Certain prediction models based on water temperature and other variables are available but unreliable, said Barton.I wonder if they are using the 2002 model, suggested by Falkland fisheries scientists Arkhipkin and Middleton, which incorporates predation by Illex on Loligo? If they were, there would be nothing surprising in having a banner year for Loligo just after an Illex crash:
I. argentinus may affect L. gahi populations either indirectly (by competing for planktonic crustacean prey) or directly (by feeding on adult squid of the first cohort and/or small juveniles of the second cohort of L. gahi). At this stage it is not possible to distinguish these two mechanisms, though diet studies are underway. However, there are indications that during period I-2 I. argentinus switch from a crustacean to a squid diet, as stomachs have been found full of L. gahi (unpublished FIFD scientific observer data).That is to say: baby Illex may steal food from baby Loligo, and adult Illex may eat adult Loligo. Illex are all-around bad news for Loligo. So if humans take enough Illex out of the water, Loligo can have a field day! And then we can take all the Loligo out of the water! And then . . . ?
Okay, sorry, bleak moment over. Actually, the squid-on-squid ecology here is quite interesting. And there are some pretty clever scientists working on this system. Maybe if they connect with some cooperative politicians, they can get the whole mess sorted out.