Spain-Gibraltar fishing dispute nears conclusion
By Chris Dove, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Malaga, Spain
03 July, 2012
With a view to ending the five-month deadlock, the Andalusian Federation of Fisheries Associations (FAAPE) has given the Gibraltar government a final ultimatum: Conclude negotiations on Spanish fishermen’s access to waters around the Rock of Gibraltar by 30 July.
Stemming from overzealous patrols by Royal Gibraltar Police, which have prevented Spanish fishermen from entering waters around the rock, the dispute centers on Gibraltar’s recent enforcement of a 1991 protected zone for environmental reasons. Spanish fishermen insist that well-established European Union regulations give them the right to enter the zone employing their traditional fishing techniques.
Early this week, FAAPE President Pedro Maza confirmed that a technical working group submitted a draft report providing advice and recommendations to the Gibraltar and Spanish governments, with a focus on the security of the marine environment and sustainable fishing practices.
The draft highlights “friendship, cooperation and common sense” and establishes the need for a “final and conclusive” report by 30 July.
Ignacio Sobrino, director of the Oceanographic Center in nearby Cádiz, has been called in to prepare a contributing report on sustainable fishing in Gibraltar waters.
With another meeting scheduled next week, Maza said, “Both sets of technicians can exchange and analyze data related to their fishing activities. I think at next week’s meeting we will be able to settle outstanding issues and clinch an accord.” Reiterating support for sustainable practices, he said fishermen wish a return to normality so “they could continue making a living,” explaining that this has been FAAPE’s position “from the very beginning.”
Fleets from two Andalusian regions, La Línea de la Concepción and Algeciras, have been particularly affected by the failure to conclude negotiations.
Describing the hardship suffered by the 53 Spanish boats based in La Línea, fishermen’s guild representative Leoncio Fernández said, “Fishing is a cruel mistress; things are so bad sometimes my wife has to go to Cáritas (charity).”
Spanish fishermen are suspicious over the timing of the dispute, claiming Gibraltar’s hidden agenda for enforcing the rock’s protected status dissuades fishing in order to regain land from the sea to develop a luxury marina.
03 July, 2012