Thursday, 6th September 2012
Spanish minister threatens retaliation over fishing row
by Brian Reyes
Four Spanish trawlers fished with nets in Gibraltar waters on Tuesday night, creating fresh tension in the fishing row after a fortnight of relative calm.
The Royal Gibraltar Police attended the scene and asked the vessels to leave but took no further action against the fishermen.
By the following morning, Spanish media reports claimed the fishermen had been “harassed” by the RGP, prompting an intervention by a Spanish government minister.
Miguel Arias Cañete, Spain’s Minister for Agriculture, Food and Environment threatened tougher measures against Gibraltar. “If hostility of this nature continues, the [Spanish] government will consider the option of taking many more measures because the attitude of the Gibraltar government is incomprehensible…” he told reporters during a visit to Valencia.
Sr Arias Cañete did not expand on what he meant by “many more measure” but described Gibraltar’s stance in the fishing row as “useless and sterile”.
He said the fishermen had always fished in these waters and that the Spanish government would continue to support them.
Despite the rhetoric, the position of the Spanish government in recent weeks has been low key.
Although the fishermen have entered Gibraltar waters sporadically during that time, they have not always been accompanied by Guardia Civil vessels.
That was the case on Tuesday, which was the most prominent of the recent fishing incursions and followed several quiet nights at sea.
A Guardia Civil only arrived at the scene shortly before the trawlers left British waters.
All eyes in Gibraltar are now on the group of fishing experts, which has yet to deliver a final report to the Gibraltar Government.
A preliminary report delivered last August recommended maintaining the complete ban on commercial fishing as a precautionary measure until the final report is delivered.
Last night a spokesman for No.6 Convent Place said the Gibraltar Government had no indication as to when the experts’ final report would be ready.
Separately, officials are assessing the implications of the court summons served on the owner and captain of the Spanish fishing boat Divina Providencia last month.
Francisco Gómez Elías has been summonsed to appear in court on September 21 in connection with alleged offences under local conservation laws.
If he fails to comply, the court would almost certainly issue a warrant for his arrest.
Ultimately, that could lead to an international arrest warrant if he does not enter the jurisdiction. It is not clear whether Sr Gómez will come to court on that date.
Although other summonses are being prepared, this is the only one that has been served to date.