Video: Argentine Forces Fire Warning Shots at Chinese Fishing Vessel

Published Mar 4, 2019 10:39 AM by The Maritime Executive

Once again, Argentine forces have opened fire to chase off a Chinese vessel caught fishing within Argentina's exclusive economic zone. 

On Sunday morning, the Argentine Naval Prefecture (PNA) vessel Mantilla spotted the Chinese fishing vessel Hua Xiang 801 at a position about one nautical mile inside of the EEZ boundary. She had her fishing gear deployed, and when Mantilla approached she fled the scene. The Mantilla gave pursuit, and according to the PNA, the Hua Xiang attempted to collide with her, putting "the crew's life at risk." 

Despite multiple orders in Spanish and English to stop for boarding, the Hua Xiang did not halt, even after Mantilla fired warning shots with her autocannon. The fugitive vessel ultimately escaped into international waters, and Argentine authorities have asked other nations to help pursue her. 

"The vessel was conducting illegal fishing," said Carlos Villareal, chief of marine traffic serices for PNA. "It evaded the maritime authority and [we have issued] an international arrest warrant. There is a history of this, and the vessels that escaped were captured and fined [$190,000]."

The Argentine EEZ boundary off the coast of Comodoro Rivadavia runs through a rich squid fishery, and distant-water fishing vessels regularly gather in the area just beyond Argentine jurisdiction. The region is known locally as "milla 201" - or "mile 201" - in reference to its location outside the 200-nm boundary. 

The PNA patrols this line to keep down the number of vessels operating illegally in Argentine waters, and tense interactions are a recurring issue. Last February, the Mantilla fired warning shots at another non-compliant Chinese fishing vessel, sparking a minor diplomatic incident. In a similar incident involving a Chinese trawler in 2016, the suspect vessel was not so lucky: after repeated warnings, the PNA sank it

The relationship isn't only about enforcement, though. PNA also provides SAR and emergency response services for the region, and a PNA aircrew helped medevac the chief engineer of a different Chinese vessel (video below) on the same weekend as the Mantilla's encounter with Hua Xiang 801.