WHY IN ARGENTINA?
At a length of 6.816 km (Diez, 2009), Argentina has one of the most extensive coastlines in Latin America and its capital Buenos Aires is one of the mentioned big cities located near the coast. Fisheries and artisanal fisheries are an important resource for coastal communities. The average total marine landings in Argentine ports is of the order of 1 million tons with a peak in 1997 of 1.35 million tons and a minimum in 2009 of 0.73 million tons. Although over the last 17 year an average of 0.13 million tons has been maintained for local coastal fisheries (MAGP, 2010), there have been notable declines over the last decade in some areas where the survival of artisanal fleets is difficult to sustain. The situation may be exacerbated further by predicted climatic changes for the future (Perillo and Piccolo, in press) affecting not only fishing activities but also communities living close to the coast. For example, preliminary studies show clearly that Argentine beaches are subjected to erosion, with some cases with coastal retreats of the order of 3-5 m per year (Pratolongo et al., 2006; Bustos et al., 2009). Coastal roads have had to be closed and many houses and public buildings are in danger of flooding and destruction by the storm surges.
The main conclusions of the vulnerability report, with special emphasis on the Buenos Aires Province, from a project funded by the United Nations Environmental Programme (Perillo, 1997) indicates that coastal retreat by sea level rise and erosion due to climate change is likely to become much worse and have recommended a need for an integrated coastal management program to provide well advanced strategic measures from decision-makers and stakeholders to take to avoid any potential prejudicial conditions along the coast. Unfortunately, very little has been done since this report, apart from a few provincial laws that have not been enforced and minor advances by coastal counties operating individually. There is no national or even provincial integrated effort going on or expected in the short time.
WHY THE BAHIA BLANCA ESTUARY?
The artisanal fisheries of the Bahia Blanca Estuary and the adjacent coast of Pehuen Co and Monte Hermoso involve over 1500 families from the localities of Ingeniero White, Punta Alta, Pehuen Co and Monte Hermoso. Even though the fishers complain that catch reduction is related to pollution, there are long-term monitoring data showing that contamination is unlikely. It is probably related to overfishing, both inside and outside the estuary, as well as changes in water and air temperature, and prolonged drought situations that are affecting the freshwater input into the estuary. Although these problems have all been predicted, decision makers only started to take action when the fisher community reacted by closing the deep harbors for commercial shipping which resulted in economic losses of over US $ 100 million. A fraction of this value could have been enough to resolve the situation well ahead of its occurrence (Pizarro et al., 2007; Piccolo et al., 2009).
Nevertheless, there are several issues that require immediate solutions as they are affecting local populations in the short term which are consequences of the advances in climatic changes or anthropogenic factors. There is a need to develop rational coastal management strategies for short, medium and large scales for the estuary and, in particular, for the coastal localities within a range of 100 km outside such as Pehuén Co and Monte Hermoso. Therefore, taking into account the specific situation of these communities in Bahia Blanca, there is considerable potential to improve governance of the fishery sector. Further to this, FAO statistics have demonstrated only limited growth rates (0-3%) for fisheries whilst, in contrast, aquaculture has been growing at around 7% per year from the 1950´s. At present, aquaculture in Argentina is relatively undeveloped with a total production in 2007 of around 3000 tons (http://www.fao.org/). However, the FAO (2008) does warn that the future scenarios for both fisheries and aquaculture are complex, as there is likely to be a substantial increase in both the costs of energy and fish feed affecting both activities in a mosaic of natural, social and economic contexts. Nonetheless, there has to be potential for compensating 1500 families at Bahia Blanca from losses in fisheries with an expansion of the aquaculture sector.