BUENOS AIRES, March 8 (UPI) -- Argentina's fisheries yields showed a dramatic drop of almost one-third in the first two months of the year, new data from the country's fisheries and aquaculture department indicated.
Argentina is already facing low yields in grain crops due to the effects of La Nina weather phenomenon, which has led to low rainfall and drought in vast tracts of agricultural land in the Latin American country.
Officials had no immediate word on whether the yield from the country's fishing areas indicated a trend likely to continue through the coming months or a passing phase. Industry officials said the low yields would affect jobs and earnings in the fisheries sector, already under pressure from decline in Argentina's marine stock.
Landings of fish during the first two months of 2011 dropped 30.4 percent compared to a year ago and totaled 50,749 tons. The yield contrasted with 72,819 tons for the period in 2010, the Fishing Information and Services reported.
The total yield represented a mixture of marine life captured during the season and comprised 40,632 tons of fish, 5,995 tons of mollusks and 4,121 tons of crustaceans, officials said.
The highest recorded landing in the period was for hake with 16,850 tons, which is 19.1 percent less than the same period a year ago. Squid followed with 5,696 tons, 69.8 percent less than in the first two months of 2010, with 18,859 tons.
Officials expressed concerns in the past that overfishing could affect overall yields of fish and other marine animals in Argentine waters. Fishing industry lobbies have complained of lack of government incentives amid aggressive competition from foreign fishing fleets.
Landings of hoki totaled 3,160 tons, stingray 2,208 tons, haddock accounted for 1,768 tons and croaker 1,290 tons, FIS said.
The fisheries' production of squid raised alarm earlier this year after crews found the stock already low outside the country's exclusive economic zone.
Last year, major rows broke out over what authorities and conservationists called indiscriminate fishing of existing stock of marine food resources in Argentine waters and beyond, mostly in zones operated by vessels from the industry.
Critics blamed lack of good governance and transparency in the business of maintaining a balance between renewable fish stock and the crews operating in those areas for maximum profit.
The limited presence of squid at mile 201, outside Argentina's exclusive economic zone, is of concern to the local squid jigger fleet, industry sources said. Fishing crews fear that something similar might happen in national waters, the sources said in published reports.
Guillermo de los Santos, president of the Chamber for Jigger Fishing Shipowners of Argentina, blamed foreign fishing fleets. He said around 17 Chinese and 15 South Korean ships with fishing licenses from the Falkland Islands were "catching very little but, more importantly, destroying stocks of the resource."
Argentina has been campaigning for its sovereignty over the British-ruled Falkland Islands and has taken measures to discourage shipping and trade involving the Falklands. Argentina and Falklands went to war over the Falklands in 1982, with deaths of more than 1,000 fighters and civilians.
In contrast to Argentina, Chile reported a 243 percent rise in landings of giant squid. However, Chilean exporters also found themselves battling for export markets as the peso rose against the U.S. dollar, making Chilean exports overall less attractive.
Fishing in Peru is also in crisis, with crews reporting sharp fluctuations in yields.