Thursday, 15th August 2013
Spanish fisheries chart steers clear of British waters
by Brian Reyes
A screen shot of the Junta de Andalucia website showing Spanish designated shellfish fisheries near Gibraltar in red and green. None of them overlap into British Gibraltar territorial waters. The artificial reef at the heart of the current dispute with Spain is outside the nearest fishery, known in Spanish as a ‘caladero’. Under Spanish law, commercial fishing can only be conducted in such areas.
Maps freely available on the Junta de Andalucia’s official website show that shellfish fisheries designated by Spain in the Bay of Gibraltar clearly respect the boundaries of British Gibraltar territorial waters.
The fisheries, known as ‘caladeros’ in Spanish, are the only zones where Spain allows commercial fishing but stop clear of British waters.
The revelation will cast doubt on Spain’s claim that it is acting to protect the interests of Spanish fishermen in the current dispute.
When the Gibraltar Government created an artificial reef off the runway a fortnight ago, Spain complained that the 70 concrete blocks had destroyed a traditional Spanish shellfish fishing ground.
But although at least one Spanish trawler routinely raked the area for clams, the site of the reef in British waters is well outside the nearest fishery designated by the Junta de Andalucia.
Gibraltar and the UK have maintained throughout that Spanish actions at the border and in other spheres are motivated less by fishing than by politics and the underlying sovereignty claim.
Raking the seabed for shellfish in British waters is illegal under Gibraltar’s nature protection laws.
The maps on the Junta website show that the nearest designated Spanish shellfish fishery ends north of the port of La Linea breakwater.
By contrast, the Gibraltar reef is inside British waters south of that same breakwater.
Spain does not recognise British jurisdiction of that area of sea but even so has not designated the site of the reef for commercial fishing.
Under Spanish law, fishing is only allowed within designated ‘caladeros’. That means that even if this was a stretch of Spanish sea, commercial fishing would not be allowed there.
In fact the nearest designated Spanish fishery in the Bay of Gibraltar, known by the Junta as Bahía de Algeciras II, ends on the northern boundary of the area of sea claimed by Britain.
The same is true on the east side of the Rock, where the shellfish fisheries designated by Spain end north of the runway on the edge of British waters.
In other words, irrespective of jurisdiction, there are no designated Spanish shellfish fisheries in British Gibraltar territorial waters.
That means that Spanish fisherman cannot legally rake for clams in these waters, whether under Gibraltar law – which applies – or Spanish law, which does not.
Yesterday a senior Spanish diplomat insisted that the current dispute would not end until the artificial reef was removed from waters off Gibraltar.
Ignacio Ibañez, director general for foreign affairs at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, made the claim even as he denied that the tight border controls were retaliation for the reef.
“On the fisheries it’s very clear, you have to take out these blocks from the sea,” he told the BBC in an interview.
“Our request is not going to the Gibraltarian authorities, our request is going to the UK…”
Gibraltar has insisted from the outset that the reef was built for environmental reasons to regenerate an area of the seabed off the runway and Western Beach.
But this argument holds little sway with Spain, as Sr Ibañez made clear yesterday.
He said the area in question had been designated by both Britain and Spain as a designated EU nature protection site and that any activity in such an area required prior study and consultation.
“To build an artificial reef in an area where fishing is happening makes no sense,” he said.
“You create artificial reefs where you don’t have fish. You don’t create artificial reefs where fish are there and fishing activity is happening.”