Spanish fishermen say Gibraltar reef ruins catch

Aug 17, 2013 by Anna Cuenca
Men from La Linea de La Concepcion fish on Friday in the area where Gibraltar dropped concrete blocks. Spanish fishermen say their catch has been ruined by Gibraltar's decision to drop concrete blocks in waters surrounding the tiny British outpost.

Spanish fishermen say their catch has been ruined by Gibraltar's decision to drop concrete blocks in waters surrounding the tiny British outpost.

The British-held territory's unilateral decision in July to set up an "artificial reef" to protect fishing grounds blocked Spanish fleets, infuriating Madrid.

Britain now accuses Spain of retaliating by imposing excessive customs checks at the border to Gibraltar, leading to daily, hours-long queues of cars.

For the Spanish that work the Gibraltar Strait, it is not just a question of diplomacy.

As fisherman Francisco Gomez hauled in dredge nets that scoop up shellfish from the , he lamented the quality of the in his catch.

"This is nothing like the shellfish you can catch over there," he said, pointing to the area that has been sealed off to Spanish boats for weeks by Gibraltar's artificial reef.

Captain of the "Divina Providencia" (Divine Providence), an old eight-metre (26-foot) fishing boat carrying a Spanish flag, 51-year-old Gomez has fished for years in the waters that lie at the heart of the most recent flare-up between Spain, Gibraltar and Britain.

It is the latest in a string of diplomatic rows over the self-governing British overseas territory, which measures just 6.8 square kilometres (2.6 square miles) and is home to about 30,000 people.

Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in perpetuity in 1713 but has long argued that it should be returned to Spanish sovereignty. London says it will not do so against the wishes of Gibraltarians, who are staunchly pro-British.

Gibraltar's government says the concrete reef will help rebuild .

A man on Friday holds shellfish from where Gibraltar dropped concrete blocks (left) and from Algeciras Bay. Fishermen from crisis-hit Spain's depressed southern region of Andalusia say the reef has removed one of their best fishing grounds.

Fishermen from crisis-hit Spain's depressed southern region of Andalusia say the reef has removed one of their best fishing grounds.

"Over there you can catch 30 to 60 kilos (65 to 130 pounds) of clams a day, for which they pay us nine euros ($12) a kilo. But here you get thin shells that fetch two euros and moreover there are only a few of them," Gomez said.

"We have been here six hours now, since five in the morning, and we have got just 40 kilos," he said while emptying four trawler nets.

They sailed a short way, always staying close to shore, and threw the trawler nets back into the sea.

Pointing to the area 1.5 kilometres (one mile) away where Gibraltar dropped the concrete blocks, Gomez said: "If we did this over there, the dredges would get caught in the blocks and we would break the boat in half."

Men from La Linea de La Concepcion fish on Friday in the area where Gibraltar dropped concrete blocks. The British-held territory's unilateral decision in July to set up an "artificial reef" to protect fishing grounds blocked Spanish fleets, infuriating Madrid.

Gibraltar, which has no fishing fleet, says the intensive fishing by Spanish boats is unsustainable. Spain says the British-held territory is imposing its environmental rules in waters that Madrid claims as its own.

"I think we know more about the environment than the politicians," said Gomez.

The Spanish fisherman said he had been charged by the Gibraltar authorities in May for "entry into British waters, illegal fishing, reckless navigation and failure to respect the authorities."

"To respect the environment, they should start by removing the floating refuelling ships," he said, alluding to the offshore refuelling stations that are another irritant in ties between Gibraltar and Spain.

As he spoke, a dolphin-viewing tourist boat passed by three merchant ships that were anchored off Gibraltar and being refuelled by a tanker via long hoses carried to them by small supply ships.

"Gibraltar is bringing us to ruin with all this," said 74-year-old Juan Morente in the fishing port of La Linea de la Concepcion just across the border from Gibraltar.

A plane flies over men from La Linea de La Concepcion fishing on Friday near Gibraltar

Sitting on a small stool between fishing nets, Morente, who no longer goes out to sea and leaves the boat in his sons' hands, removed the heads of thousands of and threw them into the sea, watched keenly by seagulls.

His boat now fishes far from the disputed waters.

Fishing is one of the few ways to earn a living in La Linea, a poor town in Andalusia, a region with an unemployment rate of 35.8 percent.

So the fishermen are hard to budge from their fishing grounds.

Elias Marquez, 56, takes his boat close to the concrete blocks of the .

"I have been fishing here for 43 years and I am not scared of the blocks, or the Gibraltar police," he said.

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Chris in Spain
4.2 / 5 (5) Aug 17, 2013
Bit of deception here. 1. The area is not in the artificial reef as suggested. 2 The use of bottom nets is illegal. 3. The stocks were ruined by overfishing in the Bay of Gibraltar (Not the Bay of Algeciras) and its time for modifications as the 25 Reefs installed with EU money in the vicinity proves. 4. There are strict rules for commercial fishing ignored here as elsewhere in Spain. Shame about livelihoods but the EU should be here enforcing quotas..don't forget share fishermen get paid when they can't fish.
GldfrdEng
4 / 5 (4) Aug 17, 2013
If the reef is being put there to protect the fishing/ clam stocks, who can complain about that? Impoverishing the stocks wouldn't help anybody in the end, whatever the nationality of those involved.
Gmr
1.6 / 5 (5) Aug 17, 2013
None of the arguments are really over fishing. It's posturing over territory, just as with the Falklands. Each has to be the "hurt" party to make claims that whatever punitive measures it is taking or will take are justified. Same thing is playing out in other areas of the world - such as the islands near Japan/China, and with the Kashmir territories between India and Pakistan.

Only good thing about global warming is there will be less of most of these territories to argue about by the end of the century; but judging by Gibraltar or some of the rocks the Japan and China governments argue over, size doesn't really matter.
John1948
3.8 / 5 (4) Aug 17, 2013
Like the Greeks, the Spanish have shown repeatedly they will just keep on fishing till there is nothing left. Having destroyed all their own stock, they want to do the same with their neighbour's.
Bob_Wallace
3.8 / 5 (4) Aug 17, 2013
" But here you get thin shells that fetch two euros and moreover there are only a few of them," Gomez said."

""I think we know more about the environment than the politicians," said Gomez."

Wonder why your clams are so small and so few Gomez?

supersubie
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 17, 2013
The Spanish plunder the sea until there is nothing left. their fishing fleets are a menace. Gibraltar has basically made a no fishing zone around it waters, don't the Spanish fisherman see that because they cant fish over there the fish stocks will grow and spill out into the rest of the surrounding area. They will eventually start to catch more and bigger fish and shellfish because they have time to grow up unhindered in the sanctuary around Gibraltar. All in all this has nothing to do with fishing and everything to do with Spain's economical situation and having regions of Spain like Catalonia lobbing for independence. The Spanish government is just trying to do exactly what Argentina does and distract its citizens from real problems with trivial territorial disputes like these.
Sean_W
1 / 5 (6) Aug 17, 2013
If the Spanish and Portuguese fishermen could figure out a way to cast dredge nets up on the land of foreign nations and haul home cars and mailboxes they would do it.
Anda
1 / 5 (3) Aug 18, 2013
Seems to be a lot of British people commenting here based only on patriotic feelings.

From a Swiss and Italian citizen that lives in Spain let me tell you this:

Gibraltar is a cove of smugglers, and they're trying to enlarge their tiny territory affecting the ecosystem of the zone.

You dare compare Gibraltar with the Malvinas ("falklands")?????
Incredible! Get a look at "big brother's" Earth app.
Gibraltar: population 29.244. Surface: 6,8 square km...

With 6,8 km2, let marroc and spanish fishermen do their jobs...

Your empire was made possible because the "Invencible Armada" was destroyed by a storm.

Now go drink your tea.