Gibraltar rules its own waves

Gibraltar rules its own waves

By David Eade
The departure of the Minister of the Environment, John Cortes, to London for a series of meetings has been seized upon by the Spanish media as proof positive that London is going to give Gibraltar a good kicking over allowing the fishermen from Algeciras and La Lnea to use the Rocks waters.

I have no idea why Minister Cortes is in London other than for a wide range of meetings relating to his various portfolios. The majority of these encounters have nothing to do with fishing although I do not doubt this matter will be raised. The minister will also be following in the footsteps of other members of the government who have attended events linked to the presence of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment on duty at Buckingham Palace.


Hence the idea in some Spanish publications that Cortes has been summoned to London to be ordered to allow the fisherman back seems well wide of the mark.

However having said that the Foreign Office will be chewing the rug over any conflict between Madrid and Gibraltar over the territorial waters and will want to avoid any escalation at all costs. As Gibraltar has no fishing fleet to speak of the London view will be why not allow the local Spanish boats in, whats the harm? No doubt John Cortes, having been labelled a mere gardener by Caruana, will in this row call a spade a spade to the great discomfort of the flunkies in Whitehall.

The notion that Britain is going to call to order Gibraltar in this conflict comes from no lesser source than Spains foreign minister, Garca-Margallo. He has stated that he recently met with the British Ambassador to Madrid, Giles Paxman, and both governments want a prompt solution. At the meeting was Spains minister of agriculture, food and the environment, Miguel Arias Caete and that eternal friend of Gibraltar the Cdiz MP and mayor of Algeciras, Jos Ignacio Landaluce. That being the case then who spoke for Gibraltar? I suspect nobody!

Garca-Margallo added that he did not want a conflict with Gibraltar and hoped that good sense would be imposed. Imposed by whom?

Some reports that I have read in the Spanish media talk of Gibraltar recently having changed the rules under which the fishermen from Algeciras and La Lnea could use our waters. Of course Fabian Picardo and his team have done no such thing. They are simply enforcing the laws of Gibraltar that the previous chief minister Peter Caruana was bullied in to abandoning. The law the government and the Royal Gibraltar Police are upholding is the law passed by our parliament.


What surprised me in these reports is that they talked of 300 Andaluca fishermen being denied access to Gibraltars waters. Three hundred? Is that fishermen or boats? I had always presumed we were talking of a small number not 300.

It is possible that Gibraltar in discussions with the fishermen can introduce a system that honours the existing law and the integrity of the Rocks waters, that governs the type of nets that can be used as well as the fish that can be caught. It can be an accord based on practicalities.

The problem is that once Garca-Margallo sticks his oar in the row becomes something else altogether. As Spain takes the view that Gibraltar has no territorial waters the logical stance of Madrid is that its fishermen can go where they like. To accept that Gibraltar has some control over them surely is tacit admission that the waters are ours as international law dictates.

So the Foreign Office and Giles Paxman have to play their hands very carefully. Britain and Gibraltar rule the waves around the Rock and in the context of enforcing its environmental laws it is the Gibraltar Government that holds sway. If that upsets Garca-Margallo, Paxman and the Foreign Office, so be it.



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Gibraltar rules its own waves

Gibraltar rules waves

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