The Gibraltar Government and the GSD yesterday clashed over alleged illegal commercial fishing by Spanish vessels in Gibraltar waters.
Igniting the row, the GSD insisted that illegal fishing is on the rise and that Spanish Commercial fishing vessels are netting and raking in Gibraltar territorial waters “with impunity”.
The party claimed that in recent months, the previous commitment given by the Government to stop all illegal commercial fishing by Spanish vessels in Gibraltar waters “is a thing of the past” as incursions are “happening on a daily basis whilst relevant authorities do nothing”.
“The GSD does not understand how the Government can spend vast amounts of the taxpayers’ monies on new vessels and employees to enforce marine regulations and then use those resources to primarily target local tuna and sport anglers,” the party said in a statement.
But, hitting back yesterday, the Government said that the enforcement of Gibraltar’s laws is paramount and “it is shocking that the Opposition party should suggest that citizens should not comply with the law.”
It added that the protection of the marine environment is a priority, as it is, increasingly, for governments around the world.
“The importance of our oceans is more in the public eye than ever before across the globe and HM Government of Gibraltar remains committed to maintaining its waters – British Gibraltar Territorial Waters – as a marine protected area,” No.6 Convent Place said.
“This is even more important today when international evidence is mounting on the need for marine protected areas, an example being the UK Government’s Blue Belt initiative.”
The Government said the success of its marine strategy has seen a considerable increase in the presence of marine life in local waters.
“This may be part of the reason why, in recent weeks, Spanish commercial fishermen have increased their illegal incursions,” it said adding that Politically motivated provocation could be another reason.
“Law enforcement by the RGP is not a matter for the Government.”
“However, the Department of the Environment’s Environmental Research and Protection Unit remains active in deploying to challenge commercial fishermen and others who break our nature protection laws.”
“Recent examples include an initiative to deter ‘pulperos’ from La Linea on the east side, many of whom have successfully been chased away and prevented from fishing.”
“In addition, EPRU officers have made frequent approaches to suspected spearfishermen and others coming in to our waters.”
“Especially in the context of Brexit, showing the world that Gibraltar is committed to continuing to maintain environmental standards and protection of the sea is key in this,” No.6 said.
Therefore, without interfering in police matters, the Government said it will remain steadfast in defending BGTW’s marine protected status, now and in the future.
Trevor Hammond, GSD Environment spokesman, said: “It needs to be highlighted that before getting into office this Government made incursions by Spanish commercial fishing vessels a cause celebre, they declared that it was unacceptable and that they would put a stop to it.”
“An extract from the 2011 GSLP manifesto reads as follows, “we do not believe it is right to allow illegal fishing in our waters” and “we will ensure that the ban on the use of drift nets and other nets is enforced without political interference.”
“We had protracted negotiations, which resulted in the Government commissioned 2012 Fishing Report in which the very first recommendation was that there should be no commercial fishing within our territorial waters.”
“While this has never been the case, there had been a reduction in the activity, which is now once again rising significantly. Commercial fishing in our waters is against the law, the Government must act to put a stop to this.
“Why should local sports fishermen be expected to comply with legislation and even forced to acquire fishing licences when activity which causes far more significant environmental damage is being ignored? This is neither reasonable nor fair.”
“I call on Government to explain why they are not acting against these illegal incursions, has their policy changed and have they entered into any kind of agreement which allows commercial fishermen access to our waters?”