The statistics demonstrate that illegal incursions into British Gibraltar Waters are down and marine life is on the increase, the Gibraltar Government reiterated on Friday in the latest round of exchanges over fishing incursions.
Nonetheless, the Government conceded that there is still work to be done. In a statement it said the Department of the Environment is constantly striving to implement new, innovative marine conservation measures in conjunction with leading researchers and scientists.
“The successful planting of sea grasses is clear evidence of this,” the Government added.
But the GSD later hit back saying it was surprised with the response and that the Government seems to have accepted illegal fishing in Gibraltar’s waters as “a fact of life”.
“This activity constitutes the continued flouting of our laws and this Government made a commitment to stop this; to again lay the blame for lack of enforcement with the RGP demonstrates either a naivety on their part when they made the commitment to stop fishing and uphold the rule of law, or a disingenuous approach towards the electorate by making a commitment that they knowingly could not deliver; their 2011 manifesto read ‘We do not believe it is right to allow illegal fishing in our waters and we will stop this immediately.’”
The GSD further stated that the Government had spent extravagantly during the last term on the marine sections of the various law enforcement agencies.
While this was laudable, the Opposition said, the tax payer is entitled to see a return on that investment represented by the enforcement of our laws at sea.
“Saying that the amount of illegal fishing so far this year is lower than in previous years is to admit that one of its flagship policies, accompanied by the cry of “aqui no se pesca” has been an abject failure.”
Minister for the Environment, Dr John Cortes, said: “[GSD MP] Trevor Hammond’s over-simplistic comments attempt to reduce what is necessarily a long-term process to suit his short-term political agenda.”
“His semantics will not disrupt the enforcement of sound, holistic policies that aim to protect Gibraltar’s vibrant marine life in a sustainable way and help it flourish in the long-term.”
“Trevor needs to accept that it was the GSD who accepted and did a deal to allow illegal fishing. We are still trying to pick up the pieces of that mess.”
Shadow Minister for the Environment, Mr Hammond said: “There is nothing sensationalist about holding Government to account on this issue, which they made a cause celebre, and on which they have failed to deliver on their commitments.”
“Dr Cortes cannot on the one hand criticise the previous administration for allowing illegal fishing and then admit that his administration is doing precisely the same thing, despite a promise to do otherwise.”
“I will give praise where it is due and have done so by citing the success of the artificial reef, but Dr Cortes knows that such successes are as nothing if we then permit illegal fishing activities to destroy the environment we have created.”
“While Dr Cortes may cherry pick any recommendations from the Government commissioned fishing report which might have been implemented, it is no accident that the very first recommendation is that ‘commercial fishing should be stopped in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters in accordance with the Nature Protection Act’, is he willing to concede that this recommendation has been either rejected or ignored?”