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Gibraltar’s artificial reef anticipates tougher times ahead for relations with Spain

Thursday, August 1st 2013 - 03:08 UTC
Full article 27 comments
“The complaint is ridiculous”, said Picardo, “the area has been under British jurisdiction for 300 years” “The complaint is ridiculous”, said Picardo, “the area has been under British jurisdiction for 300 years”

The Spanish Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Environment has filed a complaint over Gibraltar’s artificial reef at the office of Spain’s environmental prosecutor, a section of the state’s prosecution service that specialises in investigating environmental offences.

The case could further pitch Spain against UK and Gibraltar into another round of dispute over the jurisdictional waters controversy.

The complaint sets out the events surrounding the laying of 70 concrete blocks on the Gibraltar seabed off the runway last week. It describes how the operation was carried out by a tug and a floating barge under escort from law enforcement and naval vessels from Gibraltar, “and despite the opposition of Spanish fishermen and the presence of the Guardia Civil’s maritime service”.

“The Ministry believes that these actions, even if they have as their objective the creation of an artificial reef to protect the marine environment as has been claimed by the Government of Gibraltar in the media, have been carried out without the necessary authorisation,” the Spanish ministry said in a statement.

The Spanish ministry’s statement added that the reef would impact on fishing fleets not just in La Linea but in Algeciras too. It said the blocks would make it impossible to rake for shellfish and hamper fishing with nets, which could be damaged by the blocks.

The British and Gibraltar governments are clear that the reef was lawfully created in British Gibraltar territorial waters and that Spain has no powers inside that boundary. As such, any attempt by Spain to push ahead with the complaint could lead to a courtroom challenge as to who has jurisdiction in Gibraltar waters.

“The complaint is ridiculous as it purports to grant Spain jurisdiction over an area of sea which has been British for 300 years and is recognised under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea as being so,” said Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.

The developments coincided with fresh queues at the border. Drivers reported a three-hour tailback to enter Gibraltar during Tuesday and Wednesday mornings.

In yet another development, it emerged on Tuesday that Spanish border officials had prevented shipments of concrete aggregate from crossing the border from Spain into Gibraltar. The move prompted deep concern that Spain was widening its focus to target inbound freight shipments across the border.

“The Government will continue to keep an eye on these developments in order to determine whether these are isolated incidents or part of the continuing illegal campaign of harassment against Gibraltar,” the Government said in a statement.

Categories: Politics, International.

Top Comments

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  • Lord Ton

    “necessary authorisation” ?? Pompous ass. The Gib Government approved an action within its own territorial waters. Authorisation enough.

    Aug 01st, 2013 - 03:19 am 0
  • nigelpwsmith

    The Spanish Ministry for Agriculture, Food and Environment knows full well that Spain’s environmental prosecutor cannot do anything about the concrete blocks, because:

    a) they are in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters


    b) Spain is the biggest exponent of artificial reefs made by concrete blocks.

    Spain continues to ignore UNCLOS and refers to the Treaty of Utrecht to make their case. I do wish they would make a complaint to the International Court or UNCLOS and have their claim laughed out of court.

    Spain knows full well that when they signed UNCLOS, they acknowledged that Gibraltar owns the rights to the waters up to the median point of the Bay of Gibraltar and out to 12 miles on the Eastern coast of the pennisular. They tried to make Gibraltar an exception, but as it was pointed out at the time, the treaty did not allow ANY exceptions.

    If Spain continues to act belligerently and even to block the free-movement of goods into Gibraltar, then the EU Commission may intercede and fine Spain for breaching their treaty obligations. They also run the risk that Britain will veto any further EU aid to Spain until Spain gives assurances that they will comply with UNCLOS and admit that the waters belong to Gibraltar.

    Spain cannot win this one and the sooner they admit it, the better they will be. There are tens of thousands of Spaniards who rely on Gibraltar for their wages. They do not want to lose their jobs when most of Spain is unemployed. If Rajoy does not back down soon, then there will be an awful lot of Spaniards who will want him punished. Not just the people who work in Gibraltar, but all the people who cannot eat because there is no EU aid.

    Aug 01st, 2013 - 08:50 am 0
  • Vestige

    Why are mercopress articles always given from only the British perspective ??
    Clearly slanted reporting.
    Is mercopress owned by the BBC ?

    Heres an idea for a reef.
    7000 blocks in a nice long and high curve right on the edge of Spanish waters. Deckchairs, a bar and a fishing supplies shop.

    Aug 01st, 2013 - 09:30 am 0
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