GONHS Comment On EU Statement On SCI Dispute

Our sister charity today responded to the statement of EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas, who proposed Gibraltar's MEP Graham Watson an Anglo-Spanish management of marine conservation in Gibraltar's waters. Below you can find the press release in full length. For more background information please consult the information box on the right.

The Press Release in Full Length

The Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS) has described as "ridiculous" the statement by Stavros Dimas, the European Union’s environment commissioner in response to Gibraltar MEP Graham Watsons’s question. The response shows an incredible naivity on the part of such an experienced commissioner and a total lack of understanding of the situation in and around Gibraltar.

Apart from the legal aspects, and the implication in the statement that Spain has a legitimate claim to our waters, which GONHS is certain the Government will pursue, the suggestion that a joint management scheme will serve conservation is totally unrealistic. While there would be nothing wrong with exchanges of information and collaboration in developing protection strategies in the region as a whole – as proposed under the tripartite forum, and as is common practice in friendly neighbouring countries, which have adjacent protected areas – this is a totally different proposition.

And there are other complications. For example, there are parts of Gibraltar’s waters that Gibraltar and the UK have chosen NOT to designate. Would these now have to be managed as if they were just because Spain, without consulting anyone has decided to do so? Turning the argument around, how would Spain feel about Gibraltar policing those parts of their SCI outside Gibraltar waters, such as the area of Algeciras or Tarifa? Surely that would be part of a fully integrated management scheme?

The Spanish designation has meant an increase in tension and conflict, not the reverse, and the insistence on joint management is tantamount to ensuring that no agreement is ever reached and the marine environment does not get protected by anyone as the political wrangle worsens.

Taken further, as Gibraltar itself is claimed by Spain, would that in Mr Dimas’s judgement, justify Spain declaring a Site of Community Interest (SCI) on the Upper Rock which the EU would then suggest be jointly administered with Spain? How would Mr Dimas distinguish between the two using his arguments, and without entering the political debate, which he so painstakingly but unsuccessfully claims he wants to avoid?

The Gibraltar Government should now respond by an aggressive policing of all environmental matters in our waters, and initiatives to improve its conservation status to show to Europe that we can look after our waters and that we can do so on our own. The settlement in respect of the New Flame should provide finance for such an initiative, which GONHS would wholeheartedly support.