After years when the economy was based on the wool trade, the application of a fishing zone in 1986 allowed the Falklands to enrich itself thanks to fishing licences accorded to Asian and European boats. This stabilises the economy and at the same line gives the highest revenue per inhabitant on the American continent including the USA and Canada. It also allows its financial independence from Great Britain to be increased.
The licences bring in 20 million pounds a year for 250’000 to 300’000 tons of fish caught. This income depends entirely on the fish available. Prudence is necessary to keep an abundant stock of fish and some years fishing for Illex or Loligo (very common fish around the Falklands) stops earlier to preserve the species. The FIG (Falkland Islands Government) has an international reputation for good management of its fish.
Wool, world renowned, is the only farming product in the Falklands. For 150 years and up to the introduction of the fishing zone in 1986 the exporting of wool was the mainstay of the Falklands economy.
A hundreds sheep farms, which represents about 700’000 sheep, produce 2,7 million kilos of wool per year. Most of it is sent to England while the rest is used in the only woollen mill in the Falklands situated at Fox Bay.
Today the wool market is losing ground. Exports have fallen due to strong competition from Australia and New Zealand and also the vastly increased use of synthetic fibres in the textile industry. The exploiters will be forced, in the middle term, to diversify their activity or they will not be able to earn enough to survive. The climate and the geographic situation offers no possibilities for farming and the only present solution is tourism.
The arrival of great ocean liners bringing hundreds of tourists for a 4 to 8 hours visit to Stanley bay is the main source of tourism. A minority of travellers really discover the Falklands by staying at least a week.
Tourism represents an appreciable potential for the future of the island but its development is restricted by conflicts of interest and personal desires which are, in the long term, against the common good. Without rigorous plans and adequate training this activity will remain underdeveloped.
In 1992, the Falklands government authorised two companies to undertake seismic examinations to the north and south of the isles. These established that the geology of the underwater seabed was similar to that of places where petrol deposits have been found.
Licences were given to petrol companies to allow them to carry out more extensive studies in 1995 and 1996. These companies have until 2007 to discover deposits.
For the moment petrol research is problematic. International companies have already invested almost 200 million dollars in 4 drillings without any results.
It is a hypothetical future based more on probability than on concrete signs of the presence of black gold. Moreover the people in the Falklands consider the chances of discovering petrol to be as low as winning the lottery.
Text: © M.Chabod / F. Bettex • Photos: © Fabrice Bettex / Mysterra