There are five basic types of inshore fishing off Argentinian Tierra del Fuego: coastal fishing with gillnets or lines along the northeastern coasts; beach seining, use of wicker pots, and trapping for centolla (Lithodes santolla) in the Beagle Channel.
Northern coastal fishing uses three basic types of nets: (a) gillnets 25-100m in length with a mesh of 10-14cm for robalo (Eleginops maclovinus), merluza (Merluccius sp.) and trout (although fishing for trout with nets is illegal); (b) finer-meshed (approximately 3cm) gillnets for pejerrey (Atherinidae) and small robalo; and (c) trammel nets for all the above species. These nets are set perpendicular to the coast on stakes fixed in the tidal zone, where they lie exposed at low tide and are lifted by the sea at high tide. Occasionally small boats are used, especially near river mouths, either with one end of the net held on shore or with nets pulled between two boats. This fishery takes place between October and April; that for pejerrey extends into the winter.
We have monitored the mortality of small cetaceans in this fishery over the past 15 years. The species taken are, in order of quantity, Commerson’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus commersonii), spectacled porpoise (Australophocaena dioptrica), Peale’s dolphin (Lagenorhynchus australis) and Burmeister’s porpoise (Phocoena spinipinnis). Cetaceans are not trapped in the finer-meshed pejerrey nets. Pinnipeds are taken occasionally, but usually break through the nets. During 1989-1990, this fishery increased due to the economic situation of the country, but has since declined to former levels.
Fishing for centolla has lessened in the last few years, with only two companies with four boats (some 1,000 traps) working at present in the Argentine (northern) half of the Beagle Channel. Cetaceans are not caught in crab traps, but marine mammals may be harpooned for bait. Although illegal, there is some clandestine crabbing with nets in the Chilean section of Tierra del Fuego. Dolphins are entangled in these nets.
Offshore fishing is increasing; ten Argentine/foreign ships under Argentine permit and with mixed crews are based in Ushuaia at present. These fish with trawl nets or long-lines on the continental shelf off Patagonia, usually north of Tierra del Fuego, for squid, octopus, merluza, southern cod or abadejo (Genypterus blacodes) and others, producing tinned caviar and frozen fish. We have no information on possible cetacean exploitation in this fishery.