Corruption and depredation of the Argentine sea

Corruption and depredation of the Argentine sea

By Roberto Maturana

In October 1997, the news that the hubbsi hake, Argentina's main commercial fishing species, was in a process of predation, generated alarm and amazement in Argentine society. This has never been a matter of public knowledge before, and yet the resource had been over-exploited for the past ten years.

Corruption and depredation of the Argentine sea

In October 1997, the news that hake hubbsi, the main commercial fishing species in Argentina, was in a process of predation and close to collapse, it generated alarm and amazement in Argentine society. This has never been a matter of public knowledge before, and yet the resource has been over-exploited for the past ten years.

The issue of fisheries is part of the environmental issue, but more specifically that of sustainable development. In this case the exploitation of a renewable resource and the consequences that this has, among other things, for the development of that activity sustained over time.

Despite the fact that the problem has worsened in the last decade, the global crisis in fisheries is not a phenomenon characteristic only of today. Historically, the States have had to react to crisis situations marked by the predation of the sea and in no case has the regulation or ordering of fisheries been given prior to the crisis alarm.

On the contrary, and given the open access characteristic of this resource, predation is an expected result of the actions of the actors who act according to the rational calculation of what (they identify or perceive) is their individual interest.

The economics of natural resources and environmental policy have the ability to predict what will be the behavior of fishermen given their rational incentives, but not what will be that of the State. This work will focus on answering the question of whether the State had its own incentives that operated to the detriment of the successful regulation of this common space.

In Anthony Downs's work, "An Economic Theory of Democracy," the author wonders whether it is possible to distinguish between the error of a rational actor and the normal behavior of an irrational one. If rationality is a synonym for efficiency, are inefficient behaviors always irrational? Can rational actors also be inefficient? To answer this question in a consistent way, it is necessary to distinguish whether political logic has its own rationality intrinsic to its nature, like that attributed to private actors by economic theory. In other words, the lack of a state policy, rather than a manifestation of irrationality, was and is the result of a specific political rationality.

The case can be divided into two moments. On the one hand, the period that extends from the beginnings of the fishing industry in Argentina in the 1960s to the late 1990s. I will not deal with analyzing this period, but the identification of some of its main characteristics will allow us to understand and explain later moments. The second period began with the awareness of the problem of overfishing and the attempt to articulate a state response from 1997.

If the fish are harvested at a speed lower than or equal to the speed they reproduce, then the exploitation that is carried out is sustainable over time. If, on the contrary, this occurs at a speed greater than that which it reproduces, then the resource is no longer renewable, it becomes a stock that runs out and collapses in a defined horizon of time. This is the basic principle of sustainable development and rational use of resources.
The problem of fisheries appears as one of the most critical, both due to its slow ecological reversibility and its profound consequences on human activity.

"Common property resources are characterized by being not exclusive - anyone can use them despite not having paid for them, and they do not generate competition - its use by one individual must not affect the supply available to others. "This concept of "Tragedy of the Commons" used by Garrett Hardin, refers to the social dynamics that operate around the use and conservation of a resource of these characteristics . When individuals share a potentially exhaustible resource, in their effort to maximize their individual gain, they have incentives to overuse it to the detriment of others, rather than caring for it to take advantage of it indefinitely over time.
Our fishing ground presents the classic example of the tragedy of the commons. In the absence of restrictions, the “capture rule” dominates: a fish not caught by one fisherman is available to be caught by another. Instead of letting the fish grow and reproduce, the individual incentive of each fisherman determines his rational strategy:
In an analogous example, Garrett Harding in "The Tragedy of the Commons" ( Science 162, 1968), considers an area of ​​common pasture, owned by a village, which is used by the herds of all peasants. Each farmer obtains the use of the space "without cost", so that if one evaluates the possibility of increasing his herd by one unit, the cost of the pasture will not be considered in the calculation of his costs. Although the use of this space grows, no farmer will have the individual incentive to restrict his use of the space. This will be overused and ultimately preyed upon. Meanwhile, the environment's ability to regenerate itself will be destroyed.

The same is the case with fishing: fishing as much as possible, before others do, and each angler facing this incentive inevitably results in over-exploitation of the fishery.

With the exponential increase in capture costs, fisheries in a state of predation have reached their commercial collapse before the biological one. This occurs when the cost of catching an additional fish exceeds the benefit of catching it, so the activity is no longer profitable. The function of subsidies in fishing is to maintain the size of the global fleet despite the fact that they exceed the capacity of the fishing grounds. The result is an equation that necessarily leads to collapse.
The open access feature ( open access) of the resource, results in a suboptimal yield from the fishing ground and an over-capitalization of fishing effort. With an open access resource, not all costs will be taken into account: each additional unit fished, in a context of predation, will reduce the reproductive capacity of the resource itself and will increase search and capture costs for other fishermen (the added costs are external to an individual fisher, who only considers his own costs and benefits). Over time there will be too many fishermen in the fishery. Many more than it can bear.

In summary, economic theory explains that the commons will not tend to be excessively protected because the individual incentives of private actors are in direct conflict with those linked to their conservation. Since no fisherman believes he can prevent predation by unilaterally restricting his catch, the fishery will tend to collapse unless there are institutions to counter individual incentives.

Common property resources are, by definition, everyone's property and no one's responsibility. In this context, the role of the State as responsible for the general welfare acquires relevance in terms of complicity.
Given the incentives of the different actors, the State is the only one that can establish the protection of the resource by modifying the structure in which the private actors operate. In other words, because the strategy used by an actor is constituted, in part, from the set of available opportunities that it perceives, the introduction of rules of the game will change the way in which the actors perceive their set of opportunities. In this way they will tend to modify their individual strategies.

Here we see how the State that must administer is an accomplice of the administered, allowing laws to be violated in a systematic way through resolutions tailored to the needs of the administered and to the detriment of the interests of the country and its social actors.

The State should also have clear incentives to efficiently manage the resource, since by not having them, the resulting institutional vacuum gives the resource the characteristic of open and unlimited access, a scenario similar to Hobbes's state of nature. . The studies carried out on this subject have taken as an assumption that the State has the incentives to regulate and that the problem arises around which are the best instruments to do so.

In the case of hake predation, Argentina shows that the State had additional incentives that acted against the establishment of management and conservation measures. [1]

Ref 1- For a classic article on the problem of common spaces, see H. Scott Gordon, “The Economic Theory of a Common Property Resource: The Fishery”, Journal of Political Economy 62 (April 1954), p. 124-42. Also see: Colin W. Clark, "Profit Maximization and the Extintion of Animal Species", Journal of Political Economy 81 (August 1981), pp. 950-60.

[1] Ref 2- For alternative methods of community regulation, see Elinor Ostrom, “Governing The Commons: The Evolution of Institutioons for Collective Action”, Cambridge University Press, 1990. Community subsidies to the fleet

The objective of government subsidies to industrial fleets is to allow them to migrate and move to other regions of the world, as a way to alleviate the pressure on fisheries in the country of origin. This is the case of the European Union, which faces the need to reduce its fishing fleet by 40 percent due to the collapse of its own fisheries. Through Fisheries Agreements, The EU pays 1,418 million dollars annually in subsidies to send its boats to fish to other regions, Japan pays 800 million dollars.

Multinational fishing companies, such as Pescanova from Spain or Mitsubishi Japan benefit from the fishing agreements that their countries sign with third parties, generally developing countries that face the economic need to increase the exploitation of their resources. These companies maintain global operations with bases in Africa, Asia, Oceania and Latin America. Geographical diversification allows them to balance the scarcity of production in one region with that obtained in another. The EU maintains fisheries agreements with countries such as Senegal, Cape Verde, Morocco and Venezuela.
This dimension is present in all cases of collapse, whether on the side of the ships that are leaving (the case of the more developed countries) or those that are coming (the developing countries).

In the first place, and in order to understand the emergence of the crisis, it is necessary to list the central aspects in the history of fishing development in Argentina.

In the country there was never a general fishing law or a fishing policy (today there is a law, but the State ensures that it is not complied with). Thus the industry grew without defined governmental criteria. Since it began to experience significant growth in the 1960s, fishing activity developed in a context of institutional vacuum and absence of rules of the game. This lasted until the late 1990s. In other words, the principle of the so-called “Olympic fishing” prevailed, anyone could fish as much as possible without the need for a permit. In national terms, fishing developed marginally, in the shadow of agricultural issues, which received all the attention from the State and society.

The fishing activity grew, then, around the fresh industry made up of small and medium-sized companies, many of them family-owned, that operated in this anarchic environment. In other words, each of them managed as best they could. This determined that at the end of the 90s, when the crisis began, the national fishing sector had been employing its workers in black for 30 years, under-declaring the volume of their catches and operating in the sea with absolute freedom. The proposed scenario reproduced the classic model of open and unrestricted access resource and the private actors never thought of restricting their catches, on the contrary, they had incentives to fish as much as they could. This principle did not have immediate effects on the resource to the extent that the industry was underdeveloped, but as it grew, the lack of regulation became increasingly harmful.

In fisheries matters, the State was always a secondary actor. This activity had never been given attention and, despite the abundance of resources, it was never considered a strategic activity for Argentina.
At the beginning of the 90s, with the need to improve exports and obtain greater economic resources, the State decided to exploit the fishing resources to their maximum level. However, this political decision was not accompanied by a change in the way the sea was perceived from both the State and society, nor by the introduction of norms or regulations.

The need to export was more in line with the objective of the European Union: to get rid of excess fishing capacity and access new resources in other parts of the world. In a similar way with what happens with the global crisis (see chapter 2), the EU subsidized the entry of its vessels through joint ventures with Argentine businessmen. To this end, an agreement was signed for the establishment of mixed companies in 1992 and later the 1994 Fisheries Agreement.

Only after 1995, and given the spectacular increase in freezer vessels that had been experienced in recent years, began to think for the first time in a general regulatory framework. That year the Federal Fisheries Law (Law 24,922) began to take shape, which would take two years until its final approval in Congress at the end of 1997, and which contemplated the establishment of Individual Catch Quotas, an instrument that regulated and ordered the fishing ground.
Up to that point, the state's incentives had been clearly commercial and conserving the resource simply had not been perceived as important or necessary..

Even in mid-1997, there was still no talk of the biological status of the resource or of its conservation, despite the fact that the first warnings from the National Institute for Fisheries Research and Development (INIDEP) about the overexploitation of hubbsi hake began in 1988.
It was not until 1998, when the level of catches began to drop alarmingly that it was realized that the resource was in a critical situation and that something had to be done about it. The business and trade union sectors, mainly the fresh sector of Mar del Plata, because it is the most traditional and used to operating in an institutional vacuum, would perceive any action by the State that tries to regulate (that is, reduce) fishing as a threat.

In 1998 there was still a margin of action to take restrictive measures and yet they were not taken. Beyond the commercial incentives that characterized fisheries policy during the 1990s, were there other state incentives that did not allow for an orderly and clear approach to the issue as of 1997? Yes, the excessive corruption that has trampled the laws with impunity until today.

Argentina catches about 1,500,000 tons of fish and exports 60 percent of the catches worth 900 to 1,000 million pesos. Hake represents 50 percent of Argentine fishery products.
Processing in land-based industrial plants is of the order of 30 percent, while the remaining 70 percent is processed in factory ships. Other countries obtain a higher value per ton, such as Norway, Iceland, New Zealand or South Africa, eminently fishing states, which have another relationship in the degree of industrialization of the products, to which a greater number of man-hours are assigned and greater added value. On the contrary, Argentina exports products with a low level of added value and is subject to great dependence on foreign markets.

Argentina has experienced significant growth in catches of fishery products, mainly in the last decade. From ‘60 to ‘70 it doubled its captures, as in the following decade. From ‘80 to ‘90 it only grew by 40 percent, but in the '90s the capture multiplied three times. It went from the order of 550,000 tons to almost 1,500,000. This has brought the hubbsi hake, which is the main commercial species, to the brink of collapse.

The landings declared in the last ten years, by type of fleet, indicate a relationship in which the fresh fleet, that is, those that bring the product cooled to be processed in land plants, has maintained its catch in a more or less standardized. However, the increase in the freezer fleet has skyrocketed since 1993, considerably increasing its share of the catch. In 1992 there were 62 freezer vessels while in 1999 the number reached 302.

The freezers spend several days fishing on the high seas, processing and freezing their production on board without the need to return to land. They have a much higher fishing capacity than the fresqueros. In the freezer vessel, the fish is frozen and packed and kept ready for shipment to the consumer market. Once in the destination country, it thaws and works, giving it added value. When it matches a merchant ship, the transshipment is done at the port and exported directly. This industrial activity reduces the comparative advantages of Argentine production compared to the international market and has a negative impact on the national workforce employed in the sector.

For example, out of 30 thousand tons of hake per year, a plant on land obtains between 12 and 14 thousand tons of final product (including fishmeal and the recycling of waste that is used to make hake paste). This plant employs around 850 workers and with the initial 30 thousand tons, it manages to export between 21 and 25 million dollars.
In contrast, a freezer ship makes, with the same gross amount of fish, 12 million dollars of exports and employs 100 people. Freezers have a much higher catch capacity, while the fresh industry has a better chance of producing higher value-added products, employing a greater amount of labor.

In terms of activity, the fresqueros must allocate 60 days per year in the port to carry out logistics tasks; freezers spend only 42 days. Since the coolers leave the port, arrive at the fishing ground and return to port again, around 120 days of navigation are calculated per year, while the freezers occupy 21 days a year. This explains why freezers can spend between 60 and 90 days in a row fishing, make fewer trips to the port and are permanently processing the school. The fresqueros have an effective fishing of 185 days a year, while for the freezers it is 302.

Source: Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food (SAGPyA)

Until the early 1990s, fishing was concentrated mainly on fresh boats. From the 1992 joint venture agreement with the EU, and more clearly under the 1994 Fisheries Agreement, the proportion of freezers in the catch began to grow exponentially. For this reason, the fishing effort was doubled.

The fresh fleet caught 280,155 tonnes in 1991 and 264,037 tonnes in 1997. The freezers caught 127,775 tonnes in 1991 and 321,454 tonnes in 1997. The fresh fleet kept its catch level constant while the freezer more than doubled it. Between 1992 and 1997, the catches made by the fresqueros grew 11 percent, while those made by the freezers grew 149 percent WITH A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF ILLEGALLY ENTRY FREEZERS THAT TRIANGULATED TRANSFERS OF PERMITS INCREASING THE FISHING EFFORT UP TO THE DATE AND ILLEGAL TO OWNERS IN COMPLICITY WITH THE ADMINISTRATORS. The collapse of the hubbsi hake

The hubbsi hake, or common hake, is the species that traditionally registers the highest volume of catches, which have increased steadily throughout the decade. In 1988 hake catches reached 297,000 tonnes while in 1996 they climbed to 597,000 tonnes, which represents an increase of more than 100 percent. The hake fishing in the Argentine sea doubled in ten years.

To the official data must be added the undeclared amounts (what is caught and processed "in black"), and the incidental catches or by catch: hake caught by vessels fishing for another species and returned to the sea, lifeless. On the other hand, the estimated discard rates in the high seas also have a negative influence: a quarter of the hake specimens are thrown lifeless back into the sea for not reaching the minimum required sizes. This estimate makes it possible to define that in the year 96/97 approximately 800,000 tons were reached. (300,000 tons more than those provided by official data).

INIDEP, a scientific body dependent on the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food, is in charge of evaluating the status of the resource and determining the Maximum Allowable Catch (CMP), that is, how much can be fished without threatening the sustainability of the resource.
Already in 1986, an INIDEP report, which studied the period 1966-1983, concluded that the exploitation of the common hake resource was close to its maximum sustainable yield and that there was an oversizing of the fleet.

[1] Ref 3- The figures presented in this work are official. The actual figures are estimated to be higher.

[1] Ref 4- Verazay, G .; and Otero, H. “New estimates of the maximum sustainable yield of the common hake stock (merluccius hubbsi) through surplus production models. " Publication of the Joint Technical Commission of the Maritime Front. Vol 1 (1) 1986, pp. 233-39.

The highest excess catches occurred since 1995, when the actual catch exceeded the Maximum Allowable Catch by 47 percent. That percentage was 50 percent in 1996 and 48 percent in 1997. In recent years, production has declined markedly as a result of the crisis in the fishing grounds.

The 250,000 tonnes landed in the first quarter of 1997 was already equivalent to 63 percent of the maximum allowable catch. At the end of the year, landings were 50 percent higher than the recommendation. Juvenile specimens were subjected to great pressure, since it is estimated that at least 40 percent of the catches affected small specimens. Premature fishing represents a threat to the life cycle of hake, since it compromises its sustainability future, as well as the chances of recovering the stock, which has been reduced to less than half in recent years.

The biological indicators showed that the state of the resource was serious and the probability of collapse was very high. Against this background, INIDEP pointed out that to guarantee the sustainability of the resource, no more than 289,000 tonnes of hake should be caught during 1998. However, in 1998 more than 415,000 tonnes were caught.

In 1999, the fishery was mainly composed of juvenile specimens (which had not spawned once yet), so their capture implied the breakdown of the offspring and the fall of the biomass in the following years.

The technical data that warned about the possibility of collapse were coincident. The central data was the loss of a group of fish called "virgin reproductive biomass", these are the fish that are conserved as a reproductive reserve year after year. Scientifically it is considered that, to ensure the continuity of the species, the virgin reproductive biomass must be kept at a minimum of 30 percent of the total fish. At the beginning of 1999, this was below 19 percent. 1994: Agreement with the European Union [1]

In 1988, the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food (SAGPyA), approved Resolution 946 by which no more permits would be issued to fish for hake than those that already existed. For this reason, any ship that was incorporated into the Argentine fleet should obtain the transfer of an existing license, of a ship that should stop operating.
The Fisheries Agreement with the EU lasted from 1994 to May 1999. According to it, its fishing vessels would be enabled to associate with similar Argentines and would meet certain conditions: they could replace Argentine vessels with technologically more modern Europeans but with the same catch capacity. The granting of new hake fishing permits would remain prohibited, but those that were already in force could be transferred.
The EU was expressly interested in getting rid of a large part of its fleet due to the pressure exerted on its own resources. This is the reason why a subsidy of 130 million dollars was allocated to the operation: 30 to the State and the remaining 100 were allocated to operations to partner with the Argentines. More corruption It is generally accepted the idea that the person in charge of a private company would dump its contaminated waste into a nearby river, if it did not have to pay the costs of its action. The same will happen with the incentives of a political administrator. If this is not directly responsible ( personally accountable) for allowing a company to dump its toxic waste into the environment, then hopefully it will stop doing so. This will happen in a relationship inversely proportional to the degree of accountability facing; the greater the exposure, the less it will allow. Similarly, when the political costs you must pay for making a decision are high, you can expect to delay that decision.
Furthermore, when private actors, beneficiaries of those policies, do not have to pay the costs for their actions, they will demand even more permissiveness from their "representatives."

In the administrative sector of the undersecretary of fisheries, known under the name of “the cave”, around 100 people worked. Jorge Quincke, The National Director of Fisheries, was responsible for the irresolution of 4000 summaries, many started 20 years ago as it was found. Horacio Monsalvo, second to Quincke, was in charge of overseeing the base of the satellite control system -Monpesat- and who was pointed out as one of those responsible for the fall of the system.

The incident of the cessation of satellite control began when, in a letter sent to SAGPyA, the Spanish company Saincel Sistemas Navales, which was awarded the satellite control service, announced the interruption of services due to “lack of payment… absence of concrete proposals… and breach of commitments ”. As of October 1, 1999, the system stopped working. The debt amounted to a million dollars, in three years they had never paid the company. At the beginning of the contract, the teams had been stopped for several months in Customs. Representatives of the Spanish company said that the secretariat lacked the will to enter them.

Faced with the termination of Monpesat control, some 400 vessels, which were monitored, continued fishing without any official control. Monsalvo reported that the ships would sail with the satellite equipment inoperative. He also acknowledged that there were many more fishing permits than "there should be."
The closures and fishing zones differentiated by type of fleet were not adequately controlled or respected. Several industrial vessels were reported in late 1999 and early 2000 for fishing north of the 48th parallel, the area reserved for the freshwater fleet.
Exercised in the old school of the most hermetic bureaucracy, these officials were in charge of granting fishing permits and volumes to each boat, controlling the fleet, writing minutes, initiating summaries, etc. They maintained the functional monopoly of the fishing activity in the Argentine Sea. The slowness of the administrative management, the discretionary granting of permits, the scarce control of the sea and the lack of transparency were the distinctive features of the fisheries administration that until today the future takes away from us.
The relative marginality of the activity gave the fishing sector a hermetic character. This made it possible for fisheries issues to be handled almost in secret from the rest of society. Not even the state as a whole knew what was happening with fishing, beyond specific government agencies. Fishing activity has always been a social unknown that was reserved only for those who were directly linked to it. This "absence of the fisheries issue" explains, in part, the lack of vision that the authorities had of the need for clear growth strategies. Nadie explica ni se responsabiliza de por qué se desoyeron las alarmas científicas de sobreexplotación que sufría el recurso, las cuales comenzaron a sonar diez años antes. El INIDEP nunca publicó sus resultados que quedaban en un ámbito estatal muy reducido y en manos del Dr Fernando Georgiadis que manejaba toda la información de manera personal de acuerdo a cada oportunidad . Dada su estrecha vinculación con el sector, a través de la falta de transparencia que caracterizó a los funcionarios de pesca de todas las administraciones, las advertencias nunca se extendieron públicamente.
Tampoco existieron incentivos por parte de la prensa para investigar qué ocurría. Dado el lugar que ocupaba la pesca en el ideario de la sociedad, el impacto potencial de las noticias pesqueras no era muy grande. Este tema se hizo público en los medios recién a partir de 1997, cuando la crisis que se vislumbraba comenzó a tener el potencial de “escándalo”.

La promoción de las exportaciones, en la que se inscribieron los acuerdos con la UE del ´92 y ´94, también significaron una política de prestigio político para la administración menemista. Este hecho quedó registrado en la campaña de publicidad llevada a cabo por la presidencia en 1997. Una de las piezas de vía pública leía: “Multiplicamos la explotación pesquera. Grandes transformaciones nacionales, presidencia Menem”. Este doble objetivo gubernamental (aumentar las exportaciones y el prestigio del gobierno) tuvo como consecuencia la duplicación del esfuerzo pesquero en el mar argentino y el establecimiento, en 1997, del récord de exportaciones de productos pesqueros por un valor de 1.000 millones de dólares. Lamentablemente, este marcó el punto de partida del vertiginoso descenso en el nivel de capturas y el resquebrajamiento del sector. No hubo una política de promoción responsable de las exportaciones. Al no tener en cuenta la explotación racional de la pesquería dentro de esta estrategia, el boom exportador desembocó, en el transcurso de un año, en la mayor crisis del sector pesquero de la historia argentina.

Otro factor determinante de la falta de una política de Estado fue la falta de independencia gubernamental respecto del sector pesquero. La corrupción generalizada no fue secundaria en este caso, sino que fue uno de los determinantes centrales del incremento de capacidad pesquera y de la falta de controles en el Mar Argentino. Los intereses creados, que se beneficiaron de la permisividad, no sólo afectaban al sector privado sino que también influían sobre aquellos funcionarios públicos asociados con aquellos hasta la fecha.

Al aumentarse indiscriminadamente el esfuerzo de capacidad sobre la pesquería, sin contar con un marco legal general, se fomentó el descontrol. No se visualizaron las consecuencias sociales que esto podía traer.
En su trabajo “Una teoría económica de la Democracia”, Anthony Downs se pregunta si es posible distinguir entre el error de un actor racional y el comportamiento normal de uno irracional. La aparente irracionalidad que se manifestó a partir de la falta de una política de Estado fue en realidad el resultado de una racionalidad política específica del actor gubernamental, análoga a aquella atribuida a los actores privados por la teoría económica.
Respecto de estos últimos, ya se han destacado los fundamentos teóricos que explican las acciones de los actores privados frente a un recurso de acceso abierto. En este caso, los Armadores tuvieron incentivos para consumir cuanto pudieran, antes de que otros lo hicieran. Además, se ha descripto que las características de la zona pesquera en el Mar Argentino, emulaba a aquellas de un recurso de acceso abierto dado el vacío institucional imperante. En este contexto, la literatura económica sobre recursos naturales y política tiene la capacidad de predecir la conducta de los Armadores dados sus incentivos racionales, pero no ocurre lo mismo respecto del comportamiento del Estado.

El caso de la merluza demuestra la existencia de una racionalidad propia e inherente al proceso político, similar a aquella atribuida a los actores privados en el sentido de que se articula a partir de incentivos específicos . Esta situación es coherente con la teoría de Downs que se basa en la premisa de que el objetivo principal de un gobierno es el de maximizar su apoyo político a través de los votos, y no el de buscar el bienestar general.

Lo escrito sobre la regulación de los recursos naturales no siempre distingue la diferencia entre el análisis de los procesos políticos y del mercado. Esto ocurre por no reconocer que el sector político opera externalizando los costos. Un político, que no es dueño del recurso que debe administrar, no enfrenta todos los costos de oportunidad de sus decisiones. Tendrá en cuenta sólo los valores que el proceso político le obligue tener, es decir, tendrá mayores incentivos para responder a los grupos de presión política específicos, más que a una estrategia que priorice el largo plazo. Con relación a la idea general de Downs, esto surge de reconocer el lugar relativo que ocupan el corto y el largo plazo en la función costo-beneficio de los actores políticos.
Las elites políticas se comportan de una manera que pareciera ser económicamente irracional, ( en este caso hipotecando el bienestar futuro de un sector económico y social), pero, a su vez, de una manera que es políticamente racional. Las decisiones que se tomen serán las respuestas óptimas a las situaciones políticas que enfrentan y las que maximizarán la función de costos políticos, pero que no necesariamente son aquellas conducentes al bienestar social en el largo plazo.

La lógica política, que es de corto plazo, se encuentra en conflicto directo con aquella necesaria para la conservación de los recursos y el desarrollo sustentable, que es del largo plazo. Esta contradicción fundamental, intrínseca a los diferentes ámbitos, dificulta el desarrollo de políticas coherentes y responsables. Asimismo, este dilema reproduce la misma lógica que el juego de “la tragedia de los comunes” explicada en el inicio: una contradicción entre lo que es individualmente ventajoso y aquello que es socialmente deseable. “Ir al colapso de la especie es una política pesquera, porque hacerlo diluye las culpas” según Juan Carlos Villalonga, Director de la Campaña de Pesca de Greenpeace Argentina.
La espiral de crisis que se generó equivale a un círculo vicioso descendiente que se agrava con cada retraso de la decisión de aplicar la Ley y quitar del mar argentino a la flota que pesca ilegalmente. Si la inacción estatal se basó y se basa en evitar aplicar la ley, entonces, a medida que pasa el tiempo esa decisión se vuelve cada vez más urgente. El resultado es el actual: una situación de crisis continua que desemboca en el colapso del recurso.

La espiral de crisis es compleja porque abarca a todos los jugadores e involucra una dimensión temporal. A medida que el gobierno posterga su decisión de fondo (por ejemplo, quitar del caladero a los buques ilegales y reordenar el tamaño de la flota), la crisis empeora porque el sector sigue sobredimensionado por la triangulación de permisos, pero cada vez se pesca menos. En la medida en que pasa el tiempo y la permanencia de los actores de la Administración pesquera se mantienen aun con los cambios de gobierno, crece más la idea de inmunidad impune.

Desde el punto de vista privado, se ha dicho que es perfectamente racional tratar de seguir pescando lo máximo posible. En los casos en los que el Estado goza de poca credibilidad, es decir, en el que los actores no sienten que el gobierno vaya a protegerlos, el incentivo para maximizar la pesca se incrementa con su impunidad.

En Canadá, con el colapso del bacalao en 1992, el gobierno declaró una veda, pero además destinó dos mil millones de dólares para hacer frente a la crisis social que generó el colapso, que en ese caso ascendía a 40.000 desempleados. En la Argentina, el anuncio del cierre del caladero no estuvo acompañado por un plan de reestructuración, ni por fondos económicos que acompañaran la decisión y le confirieran un carácter estratégico, ni por ninguna otra medida que significara una preocupación por el futuro del sector pesquero. En este contexto, aumentó aún más la racionalidad de los actores privados para oponerse a estas medidas aisladas.
La señal que el gobierno envió durante 1999, era que no tenían la menor idea de qué hacer ante el colapso inminente. Esta espiral de crisis se mantiene aún hoy cuando todavía no se han tomado medidas estructurales y el caladero se dirige hacia el colapso. Con el modelo de incentivos políticos desarrollado en este trabajo, es posible predecir que esta situación se extenderá hasta fines del 2005 o comienzos del 2006, hasta finalizar con el colapso definitivo del recurso. En ese caso, y sin otros incentivos que se interpongan en el camino y que impulsen modelos sustentables de desarrollo, es posible (y esperable) la reproducción de este modelo de explotación irracional hacia otras especies, replicando el caso de la merluza con otros peces, como nos ocurre hoy con el el calamar.
No ha habido ningún caso en el que la regulación de una pesquería se haya dado con anterioridad a una crisis porque lo que se busca es desarrollar una industria e incrementar las exportaciones, cuando se toma conciencia de la equivocación de sobredimensionar la flota y afectar la sustentabilidad del recurso, se trata de tomar medidas que solucionen la situación.
Las presiones políticas que ejercieron sobre el Estado argentino los sectores que debían ser regulados, le generaron mayores incentivos políticos para mantener a la industria sobre dimensionada y no ejercer controles necesarios para organizar las capturas de modo eficiente y sustentable para el futuro.

Todo lo antedicho, sin embargo, se basa en el supuesto de que el gobierno sabe qué es lo que tiene que hacer pero que no lo hace por cuestiones políticas y la justicia, en su adicción al poder político, lo sigue a la par. Esto está presente en toda los estudios de economía política aplicada a los recursos naturales. Sin embargo, el caso argentino pareciera ser aún más crítico, ya que el abordaje de la crisis durante 1999 se presentó como una extensión del caos, la desinformación y la incertidumbre que imperó en el sector a lo largo de los 30 años anteriores.
¿Quiénes ganaron y quiénes perdieron con la depredación de la merluza? Resulta claro que en el largo plazo perderán todos, pierde la sociedad en su conjunto y se pierde una oportunidad de desarrollo y de empleo. Sin embargo, es parte de la ironía de este caso que quienes más se han perjudicado (y se perjudicarán) por la depredación de la especie, han sido en gran parte responsables de la crisis. Por esta razón, este caso es un típico ejemplo de lo que he descripto como la “tragedia de los comunes”, en el que los incentivos individuales difieren de la situación socialmente deseable.

Funcionarios y políticos pasaron por alto durante una década las advertencias y recomendaciones científicas sobre cuál debería ser la explotación óptima del recurso. Siempre existió la necesidad de organizar a la industria pesquera, de establecer reglas claras para su crecimiento y de hacerlo en torno al principio de desarrollo sustentable y el uso racional del recurso. Al llegar la crisis, tanto el Estado como el sector pesquero comprendieron de repente que el interés por la preservación del recurso trascendía el ámbito científico o el mero reclamo de ambientalistas. Esta cuestión se había convertido en realpolitik, a la hora de enfrentar las consecuencias del mar vacío.

La necesidad impostergable de encarar los temas de desarrollo desde una perspectiva de explotación racional y de desarrollo sustentable. En este caso práctico quedan evidenciadas las profundas consecuencias políticas, sociales y económicas que tiene el comportamiento contrario.

Asimismo, el concepto de “desarrollo sustentable” y el del bienestar para las “generaciones futuras” es abrazado por todos los actores sociales, especialmente por aquellos que, irónicamente, hacen más daño al medio ambiente y a las generaciones futuras. Esta idea también ha sido plasmada en el artículo 41 de la Constitución Nacional reformada en 1994. A pesar del extenso contenido discursivo, el compromiso general que existe con las futuras generaciones es aún incipiente. Para lograr cambios sustantivos en la manera en la que se enfocan las cuestiones ambientales las generaciones actuales deben ser revalorizadas, porque cuidar de las generaciones futuras presenta necesariamente un esfuerzo adicional y siempre es menos cuantificable que cuidarnos a nosotros mismos.
Este error de enfoque debería contemplar a las cuestiones ambientales como un activo importante, incluso para las generaciones presentes. El caso de la depredación de la merluza mostrará durante los próximos años, seguramente de forma trágica, el impacto que tuvo el no atender estas cuestiones con un enfoque responsable por parte de la Justicia que nada ha hecho para variar el destino de un crak biológico y social anunciado.
En la medida en que se perciba que estas cuestiones son verdaderamente importantes e impostergables desde el punto de vista social y económico, existirán mayores incentivos para encararlas con un compromiso político verdadero. No de "verso para la tribuna de los giles".
Señor Presidente: Todo esto se resuelve fácilmente aplicando la Ley apartando del mar argentino a la flota congeladora – factoria extranjera e ilegal- que Carlos Menem y Felipe Solá hicieron ingresar al caladero para depredarnos, desde la pasada década.
Argentina tiene la prueba de la U.E. que desguazó a su flota congeladora, para proteger la industria fresquera que más mano de obra genera con su valor agregado en tierra.

Dr Kirchner, su Gobierno permite una grave corrupcion que subyace dentro de la Administración pesquera. Argentina podría tener un futuro sustentable biológica, social y económicamente de no utilizar la "Caja Mar Argentino" para sacar más y más legislando privilegiadamente para que se robe pescado de todos los argentinos. La tragedia de los comunes nos espera.
Aquí queda claro que, mientras Europa reduce su flota, acá permitimos que nos deprede (ver). Para eso pagaron a los políticos, quienes se robaron todo, como hacen con el destino de nuestra Nación.
Viva la Patria Sr. Presidente. No perdono ni olvido, yo no me rindo.

* Roberto Maturana
Oficial de Marina Mercante-Investigador

Video: Argentinas ex-president Cristina Kirchner faces corruption charges. Al Jazeera English (May 2021).