An illegal fishing net of 300 metres length which was discovered this week in Gibraltar's Admiralty Waters has once again led to requests for the immediate implementation of fishing regulations. Both opposition party PDP and the Gibraltar Federation of Sea Anglers (GFSA) have voiced their dismay in the Gibraltar Chronicle. The Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) meanwhile discussed the matter in its TV programme "Viewpoint".
Nets Pose Threat To Vessels and Biodiversity
The net has been removed for reasons of security and safety, the Gibraltar Chronicle wrote, explaining that a spokesman of the Ministry of Defence has confirmed that the net "could have caused a nasty accident" - any vessel's propeller might have gotten stuck in the net. According to the newspaper hundreds of dead fish were caught in this net, a type which is illegal to use in Gibraltar due to the Nature Protection Act. The authorities are treating the net "as a found item", the Gibraltar Chronicle wrote.
Protest in the Media
It has hardly been two months since the GFSA went public with its concerns over the grave exploitation of the sea. It said that despite 16 years of queries to the Government neither fishing regulations nor marine protection laws have been implemented. Since the GFSA has started its campaign "Angling For Change" it has received manyfolded support from the political opposition, from our sister charity GONHS and from private citizens, who wrote respective letters to the editor (Gibraltar Chronicle).
Commenting on the net incident in Admiralty Waters the GFSA was quoted in the Gibraltar Chronicle: "If these infringements are taking place on a regular basis, as the reports received by the Federation suggest, then this points to a lack of control and regulation on the part of the pertinent authorities. GFSA challenges the pertinent authorities to do more to implement current legislation and agreements."
"The tragedy in this instance is that the Government has the necessary legislation in place, the Nature Protection Act, to prevent acts like these from taking place but have completely failed to ensure that this and other laws and agreements are being fully implemented. They have shown no leadership ... The size of this net is enormous ... Not only is it unlawful to lay this net inside Admiralty waters but the type of net used a gill net, is completely illegal. One thing is for certain it is totally indiscriminate and will kill any thing that it catches big or small ... This is very upsetting because of the unprecedented damage to fish stocks that this one incident has done within Admiralty waters."
Gavin Gafan, spokesman for the PDP was likewise quoted in the Gibraltar Chronicle saying: "Those laying such a net were not interested in fishing as a leisure pursuit. They were purely interested in commercial and indiscriminate fishing on a massive scale. This would deplete our stocks and play havoc with marine life ... It [Government] should also work with the policing authorities to ensure these are given the tools necessary to properly enforce our laws. We cannot continue like this. The Government needs to act and to act now."r Eric Shaw, acting as Marine Section Head of our sister charity GONHS. Even if there was no consensus as to how extensive and comprehensive the measures should be, everyone agreed that action had to be taken without further delay. The Government representative - who had to face criticism regarding that delay – said that a respective consultation document was "practically ready". Mr Hernandez stated, that Government doesn't agree on all requests of the GFSA and that the solution should take in consideration touristic and leisure-related aspects. Mr Hernandez also added, he would like to change the Nature Protection Act, which Dr Shaw said is comprehensive, and which GONHS would not like to see breaking down.
Politically Sensitive – 'Gibraltar Risks British Territorial Waters'
In a last statement before the end of the GBC discussion, Mr Wood stressed the international political impact of Gibraltar's governmental lack of marine protection: "From the EU-point of view and with our neighbours pressuring them, we have to be seen as reckless with our waters. And we can risk losing the sovereignty of our waters to Spain because they can accuse us of not controlling them properly. That is my line."
Mr Ramos added: "I would actually expand on what you have just said. We have been in consultation with the Government for 14 years and they've done nothing about it. Like we all know, the situation is now that Spain has become aware that Gibraltar is a free for all: fishing, diving, anchorage. So they have assumed the responsibility to control our marine environment. And now the Gibraltar Government and the British Government have to go to the European Court to reverse that. Had they listened to us that wouldn't have happened."
Net Fishing: No Singular Incident
Taking part in GBC's discussion panel Mr Wood said, that he comes along those illegal fishing nets quite often. He added, that those nets pose a grave thread to divers, especially in murky waters, when you cannot see further than an arm's length. Dr Shaw added, that it is a miracle that so far these nets have not caused a fatality.
To our charity these nets are far more familiar than we would like them to be: In the 1990's they were responsible for multiple dolphin mutilations: In an international campaign our charity could expose Spanish long line and net fishermen, who simply cut of the dolphin's body part, which accidently got entangled in their nets. Due to the campaign these days there are not as many dead dolphins on the shorelines as before, but occasionally you still find endangered species who have died in fishing nets or long lines, among them dolphins and turtles.