EU to rule on Gibraltar dispute


Pilar Caride, SeafoodSourcecontributing editor, reporting from Vigo, Spain

Published on
September 9, 2013

The diplomatic spat between Spain and the United Kingdom over Gibraltar has strengthened this summer, after 70 concrete blocks were dropped by the authorities of the Rock into the waters near Gibraltar, angering the Spanish fishing industry and calling into question the legality of the action.

The Gibraltarian authorities described the blocks as part of the creation of artificial reefs, but they prevent Spanish fishing vessels from working in the area, prompting the Spanish government to reject that explanation.

According to the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Affairs, the ministry filed a complaint with the Environmental Prosecutor that has been passed to the European Commission for study. According to publications in several Spanish media, the E.U. will analyze and determine if it is legal to dump those concrete blocks.

The most affected are the fishermen from La Línea and Algeciras. The Secretary of the Fishermen’s Guild Federation of Andalusia, Jorge Campos, told SeafoodSource that this measure has adverse effects for about 300 families.

“The usual fishing activities that were undertaken in the area for many years will be definitely impossible,” he said.

Campos rejected calling the blocks “artificial reefs,” because he said there has not been any known biological study or any prior consultation, at least with the affected fishing sector. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the Spanish government shares the same opinion and considers that the blocks have been dropped “with no control, authorization or prior environmental study, and they have caused the destruction of the fishing ground.”

The tense atmosphere comes from long ago, given that the Spanish fleet has had problems with Gibraltarian authorities again and again. “We have been constantly bothered and they have invited us to stop fishing in the area,” Campos said.

Since both parties signed a joint fishing agreement in 1999, there had been no problems with Spanish ships fishing in that area, until tensions began rising again after the general elections of 8 December 2011 when Peter Caruana, after almost 16 years as chief minister, suffered a defeat at the ballot.

“Since the government of Gibraltar changed, the interventions of the Gibraltarian police have started to increase,” Campos said.

The Federation claims that it has every right to fish there, since its fleet carries a fishing license that covers the Mediterranean, with no exclusions.

The Federation underlines the fact that precisely “the city that causes this situation, Gibraltar, does not have any kind of fishing fleet.”

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