As Spanish fisherman returns Govt dismisses Algeciras Mayor's comments
The Gibraltar Government on Tuesday dismissed comments made by the Mayor of Algeciras, Jose Ignacio Landaluce, who called on the Gibraltar Government to “stop pressurising and harassing” Spanish fishing vessels and to “respect international law”.
This followed an incident earlier this week where a Spanish fisherman was reported for nine offences, including illegal fishing and fishing for an endangered species within British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.
But, despite being reported, the fisherman entered Gibraltar waters on Tuesday morning, this time shadowed by a Guardia Civil vessel.
Mr Landaluce, the Partido Popular Senator for Cadiz, told the Spanish press he stood in solidarity with the Spanish fishermen.
Mr Landaluce also lamented the “negative and confrontational attitude” of the Rock’s law enforcement agencies and accused Gibraltar of “usurping” Spanish waters.
But his statements were rejected by the Gibraltar Government.
A spokesman for No.6 Convent Place said: “The Government considers these comments not only to be legally and factually wrong but also designed purely to distract from Mr Landaluce’s own domestic agenda.”
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said: “I am not surprised to hear the utter nonsense coming from the Mayor of Algeciras, Mr Landaluce, in respect of Gibraltar, British Gibraltar Territorial Waters, our waste water treatment and the actions undertaken by Gibraltar’s law enforcement in areas under their jurisdiction.”
“If Mr Landaluce genuinely believes that the waters surrounding Gibraltar are anything other than entirely British, he is either unable to understand the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or simply refuses to respect it.”
“I have already told Mr Landaluce that I am more than willing to meet with him to take him through the Convention, line by line, and demonstrate to him that the waters surrounding Gibraltar are nothing other than exclusively British.”
“In fact, Mr Landaluce would do well to remember the declarations of Snr Inocencio Arias in 2013 that the territory of Gibraltar had been ceded by Spain through the Treaty of Utrecht and that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea stipulates that no territory can have a ‘dry coast’, meaning that sovereignty cannot end at the coastline and must extend into surrounding waters.”
Mr Picardo said Mr Landaluce has also made “outlandish remarks” about the Government of Gibraltar’s “lack of environmental commitment in respect of our waters”.
“Let me tell Mr Landaluce that not only does Gibraltar have the best bunkering code in Europe, but that the cooperation between the Ports of Gibraltar and Algeciras has never been better,” Mr Picardo said.
“Additionally, it is entirely wrong to suggest that our waters are contaminated, in any way, as a result of the Government’s lack of rigorous environmental protection.”
“It is a fact that our water quality has increased and is classified as ‘Excellent’ in all of our beaches, except Western Beach, which so happens to be the closest one to Spain and is poorer for reasons out of the control of the Government of Gibraltar.”
“It is therefore absolute nonsense to suggest our waters, or their beaches, are in any way contaminated by our waste water discharge.”
“We have demonstrated this is not the case.”
“It is, however, true that the Algeciras sewage pollutes their own beaches and therefore Mr Landaluce’s comments smack of political hypocrisy.”
Mr Picardo said the Gibraltar Government is “very close” to awarding the tender for a waste water treatment plant which, he accepted, was “long overdue and… impossible to deliver earlier”.
“This will, once again, deprive Mr Landaluce from the pleasure of wrongly attacking Gibraltar for the alleged contamination of our waters which is entirely false,” Mr Picardo said.
“I once again invite Mr Landaluce to take up my offer, read the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, accept finally that Gibraltar’s waters are exclusively British and to focus his efforts on delivering for the people he represents.”
On Tuesday morning the Master of the Spanish vessel, Mi Daniela, accused the Royal Gibraltar Police of once again “harassing” him as he returned on Tuesday to collect his fishing nets.
Speaking to the Spanish press agency, EFE, he accused the RGP marine officers of navigating dangerously close to his boat as he sailed towards the east side of the Rock shadowed by the Guardia Civil.
“Instead of turning back towards the coast, [the officers] accelerated at full speed and crossed me two metres ahead, potentially causing an accident,” he said.
“What they accused me of is exactly what they do every time we are in that area.”
The fisherman insisted that he “fishes in waters” that the Spanish Government says belongs to Spain, and he uses nets and gear that are “legal in Spain and the European Union”.
On Monday, he was reported by the RGP of four counts of illegal fishing, one count of fishing of endangered species, two counts of dangerous navigation, one count of threatening behaviour and one count of obstructing a wildlife officer by the RGP.
The RGP said this was a multi-agency operation following the reporting of numerous offences involving the same fishing boat dating back to last May.
A spokesman for the RGP told the Chronicle that, at around 8am on Tuesday morning, officers on a RGP patrol boat and a vessel from the Department of the Environment observed as the Spanish fishing boat returned to the east side where it was later joined by a Guardia Civil vessel.
“The two Spanish boats were then shadowed at a safe distance as they left BGTW,” the RGP spokesman said.
“There was no harassment and no fast-moving manoeuvres by either of the Gibraltar vessels.”