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Falkland Islander fishermen protest license fee increase, 2008
The Falkland Islands is an archipelago off the coast of Argentina. The United Kingdom has declared the Falkland Islands their own territory, but Argentina also claims the Falkland Islands (which Argentinians refer to as Islas Malvinas) for their own. The islands primarily bring in money from fishing and wool industries. In order to regulate the fishing industry, the Executive Council of the Falkland Islands government requires all fishermen to purchase a license during each fishing season. The Executive Council (commonly known as the ExCo) sets the prices of licenses such that they are expensive enough to deter many new companies from entering the market, but not so expensive that the fishing industry fails.
In May 2008, the ExCo raised the squid fishing licenses by 30%, a move that the Director of Fisheries John Barton said followed the government policy of keeping the fees as high as “what the market can stand.” The Falkland Islands charges more for squid licenses than any other country. Between 2003 and 2008, the government increased squid license fees by 85%. This move particularly upset the squid fishermen, who already had to deal with rising fuel prices for their ships, which had increased 70% over the course of the year (around 300% over the course of four years). The Falkland Islands Fishing Company Association feared that these costs would inhibit any growth in the industry and might actually lead to decline.
The Falkland Islands Fishing Company Association (FIFCA) worked with the Loligo Production Company to prepare a case against the fee increase. In May 2008, the FIFCA presented the case to the ExCo. On May 27, the ExCo issued a statement saying that they refused to repeal the fee increase. The FIFCA and the Loligo Production Company attempted a second appeal in June, but to no avail.
Fishing entrepreneurs and locals objected to the fee increase, and Argos Fishing Company Manager Drew Irvine pointed out on the Falkland Islands radio station that fishermen contribute a considerable amount to the island in the form of taxes, on top of fees.
The squid fishermen protested the decision by sounding their ship horns for three days, July 12, 13, and 14, as the fishermen departed for the fishing grounds at the start of the squid fishing season. Commuters and shop owners heard the incredible noise from the main roads. The protest prompted ExCo to claim that it lacked the proper information to determine how exactly the rising fuel prices impacted the squid fishermen. The ExCo’s statement confused the FIFCA and the Loligo Production Company, who felt that they had already addressed these issues. In their June appeal, the FIFCA and Loligo Production Company had provided calculations and estimates for the increased cost of maintaining a fleet of sixteen squid fishing vessels, both from increased fuel prices and the additional 30% license fee, which amounted to approximately £265,000 per vessel.
Despite the squid fishermen’s efforts, the ExCo decided to uphold their decision, and the license fees remained at their high levels.