Stuart Wallace: We watch Argentina's behaviour with bemusement

This is a bizarre move by a government keen to divert attention from its domestic woes
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Life in the Falklands has always had its challenges: a pretty robust climate, limited resources, geographical isolation, the threat from Argentina and a tiny population all combine to make it not the easiest place in which to live. But for all that, I don't think we have made such a bad job of things.

Political tensions with Argentina have been the backdrop to the lives of all of us in the Falklands over the years. In 1982, of course, political aggression turned to military aggression and we were invaded. After our liberation there were some years of relative calm, even what might be regarded as normality in other circumstances.

Unfortunately, particularly since the emergence of the Kirchner governments, things have deteriorated. For some time now Argentina has adopted policies that are designed to damage or hinder the development of our economy and advance their own ambitions. They do this by interrupting the growth of our air links with Chile, and by targeting their fisheries policies in ways designed to damage this mainstay of our revenues.

They act with irresponsibility over what are called "straddling fish stocks" – fish which are in both the Argentine and Falklands waters and which the Falklands have managed in a sensible and sustainable way. Argentina refuses even to share its data, let alone arrive at a co-operative way of ensuring their sustainability. They object when we contribute to international gatherings on global issues such as the sustainability of fisheries.

This latest "decree" of the Argentine government heightens the tensions between us. I suppose that what they do in their territorial waters is a matter for them, but it may have some unwelcome effect on our economy. It seems like a bizarre move by a government increasingly desperate to divert attention from its domestic woes.

The response from the British government was immediate. We are well defended, and although it would be nice if the Argentine government behaved differently, we are accustomed to this running interference and will do what we can to mitigate any adverse effects of this latest move. Our oil exploration programme will continue.

I don't think people here are unduly concerned. We do discuss what the Argentines are up to, and we take what action we can, but I think the most common reaction is one of bemusement that our neighbours seem to be caught in some sort of time warp, dissipating what little reputation they have for seriousness left by adopting polices guaranteed to alienate people – Falkland Islanders and others in the international community – even further. All while their own economy implodes. But it is summer here, and I'm going fishing at the weekend with my granddaughter. So sod the Argentines.

The writer has lived in the Falklands for more than 50 years and is the managing director of Fortuna, the largest fishing company in the islands