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The wet desert

The wet desert

By Ricardo Luis Mascheroni

As if by magic, by black magic I would say, the fish exporting companies are transforming our rivers and continental seas into this type of geography, where fish resources are inexorably marching towards their total extinction, a product of irrational and unsustainable fishing, aggravated with the use of technologies and factory ships, whose extraction rate far exceeds the natural reproduction rate.


The present title sounds almost like a contradiction, since one of the distinctive characteristics of the desert is the almost absolute absence of humidity. But beyond that, it is known that generally we use the term in the form of an adjective to indicate loneliness, depopulation or absence of life.

So incorporated we have this meaning, that when we go to a walk or place and we do not find anyone, the first thing we express is: There was not a soul, the place was a desert !!!

Claiming the concept of a humid desert, I must say that Argentines, rather a small number of them, but very eager, with the conspiratorial gaze of a few others, and the inaction and indifference of many, have become skillful and industrious builders and makers (as we like to say today) of this type of landscape or moorland.

As if by magic, by black magic I would say, the fish exporting companies are transforming our rivers and continental seas into this type of geography, where fish resources are inexorably marching towards their total extinction, a product of irrational and unsustainable fishing, aggravated with the use of technologies and factory ships, whose extraction rate far exceeds the natural reproduction rate.

If you are a regular fisherman, or in your case, one of those who from time to time appeared on the shore of a river, stream or lake, surely you are already aware of this unfortunate reality. But if he has never fished in his life, but like many, he regularly walks on the coast, on any coast and is one of those who always approaches a fisherman and asks; "He took something master or how is the bite", they will also have informed you that the bite disappeared along with the fish.

No one doubts or questions the legality of these activities, but we must not forget that natural resources, in this case fish, are part of the common heritage of current and future generations and are intended for the use, enjoyment and enjoyment of all and not just from a small group of people.

The National Constitution expressly contemplates this situation in article 124, when it states: "The original domain of the natural resources existing in their territory corresponds to the provinces."

I clarify that fish are natural resources and that when the Magna Carta in the transcribed article speaks of the province, it does not speak of its government, but of the State, which are not the companies, but we are all.


From different areas, be it fishing clubs, cabañeros, river people, environmental organizations and an important part of the scientific community, voices are raised that warn about this ecocide. So today, to realize this situation, it is not necessary to be an expert, much less use long and laborious evaluations and field investigations.

Despite this incontestable reality and known to all, it seems that, according to studies carried out by the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF LIMNOLOGY (INALI), the UNIVERSIDAD NACIONAL DEL LITORAL (UNL), the NATIONAL COUNCIL OF SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL INVESTIGATIONS (CONICET), and the UNDER SECRETARY OF FISHERIES AND AQUACULTURE of the SECRETARIAT OF AGRICULTURE, LIVESTOCK, FISHERIES AND FOODS of the MINISTRY OF PRODUCTION, together with technicians from the Provinces of ENTRE RIOS and SANTA FE, the thing is not so, according to what is literally deduced from the foundations of the decree signed by the National Government on 07-21-09, which states: "That studies show that both the shad species (Prochilodus platensis) and its main companions are maintained in a sustainable state and in suitable sanitary quality", which allows that until December 31, 2010, they can continue to export: tarpon, surubí, tararira and boga.

That "they are kept in a sustainable state and in suitable sanitary quality", means in simple and understandable words for everyone, that it is possible to continue fishing, there are fish for a while.

We probably agree that someone is not telling the whole truth, or that those who say the river is dying are irrational alarmists, including myself.

It is almost suspicious or at least unclear, that Argentina is the ONLY country in the world that exports fish from its Inland rivers, species that also have a high environmental, sports and tourist value.

We are living barbarians, we have it longer and we bank it and what: Argentina World Champion of the export of river fish !!!, until the Guinness record we do not stop.

In recent years, countless proposals have been made and attempts have been made through different mechanisms to prevent the chronicle of an announced death, but it seems that none of the alternatives has produced the expected results in the regeneration of the common heritage.

Prohibitions, controls, increased mesh openings and the size of the species pieces, subsidies and a whole series of unimaginable projects have been tried, but unfortunately the poncho does not appear.

Less can we take seriously the millionaire investment projects and the repeated offers from the meat processing plants to establish fish farms aimed at repopulating the river, which in both cases have never been fulfilled and much less have been demanded by the State .

I believe and hope that it agrees again with my appreciations, that in this matter the interests are tremendous and the networks of complicities are tailored to them, otherwise it is not explained that the things that we all see except the official controls happen.

We should seriously ask ourselves: did all this economic movement of magnitude improve the conditions and quality of life of our men on the river, or has it only served to enrich the exporters?

When the last fish is extracted and nothing is left for the subsistence of the fishermen, the entire community that did not participate in the benefits of this activity, will have to subsidize thousands of unemployed people all year long?

You know well, in this country the losses are shared and never the gains.

What will all those people linked to the river do, when there is no more fishing, will they end up in the slums of the big cities, becoming another victim of political patronage or state welfare?

Unfortunately I have to admit that there will not be a solution and we will not reverse the problem as long as there is no commitment from the entire community on the issue, but I am sure of what Don Atahualpa Yupanqui expressed in "El arriero", " The pains are of us, the cows are foreign…".

Ricardo Luis Mascheroni, Professor and Researcher U.N.L. - Argentina


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