Monday, August 19, 2013

Two sides to the story

First the version from the Spanish press:

Gibraltar fishermenFirst thing yesterday morning, the entire fleet of La Línea de la Concepción (Cádiz) departed from the port of La Atunara to sail to Puerto Chico, accompanied by Civil Guard patrol boats.

The fishermen were planning to just concentrate on the area where the concrete blocks had been set on the sea bed, but the Gibraltar Police patrol boats blocked the passage, keeping an eye on the protest until its completion.

For the Confraternity of La Línea (Cádiz), Leoncio Fernandez, said that it was a peaceful protest; an act aimed at defending the rights of fishermen to fish  in the waters.

Fernandez highlighted the damage being suffered by the ships which are unable to carry out their work in these waters and figures that they have lost over 1.5 billion euros since the problems  began over a year ago.

Jose Antonio Gonzalez, the skipper of 'San Juan',  said that the Spanish Government were aware of how Gibraltar is attacking the historical rights of fishermen. 

"It is the bread of our children"

The protesters urged the Gibraltar authorities  to "stop throwing concrete blocks into the sea" and in an  exchange of insults insults with some Rock agents they shouted "stop playing with the bread of our children."

The boats returned to harbour followed by five Civil Guard vessels without incident.

Gibraltar says that fishermen may fish under the legislation of the Rock

The Gibraltar Government said in a statement that Spanish fishermen can continue fishing in waters near the Rock "as long as they do so in accordance with the laws of Gibraltar".

The Gibraltar Executive, headed by Fabian Picardo, claim that the reef was laid according to a fishing report in which Spanish experts participated. The report recommended the adoption of measures to ensure sustainable fishing including the creation of an artificial reef which  was agreed to by environmental groups.

Further more, Picardo says that the area in which the Gibraltar authorities have set the concrete blocks that prevent Spanish fishermen fishing was frequented only by one boat the 'Divina Providencia'.

Now from the UK press:

Spanish boats illegally entered Gibraltar's waters after a stand-off with the Royal Navy on Sunday in an escalation of the bitter diplomatic dispute over fishing rights.  British military and police boats had to push back a flotilla of around 40 Spanish vessels.

The fishermen, some shouting "Gibraltar is Spanish", were protesting against a concrete reef built by the Rock's government to protect its fishing stock.They argue the reef restricts their rights to fish, but Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar's chief minister, said "hell will freeze over" before the barrier is removed.

Cathal Yeats, chief inspector of the Royal Gibraltar Police, said the flotilla crossed into Gibraltarian waters before being "corralled" out again.

"At around 9am about 38 Spanish fishing boats and seven or eight pleasure craft converged in the area of the western anchorage," he said. "We had our own police cordon along with Royal Navy and other assets and we corralled them in the area of the south mole.

"They tried to breach the cordon several times but they were not successful."

Rajoy has said he would prefer to settle the dispute in a friendly manner but at the same time threatened to use all measures available to defend his country's interests.

The row could intensify further on Monday as HMS Westminster, a British warship, and two auxiliary vessels are due to dock in Gibraltar, with crowds of flag-waving residents set to welcome them into port.

British officials have stressed that this is part of a "routine" journey from England through the Mediterranean to the Gulf.Picardo, the Gibraltan chief minister, who has received death threats over the conflict, thanked the British authorities for their "cool, professional and calm" help in fending off the Spanish boats.

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