LMV recently wrote a post about the ‘First Fish War‘, which is our interpretation on the brewing dispute over the South China Sea. However, China and the Philippines are not the only two countries that are arguing over fishing rights in territorial waters. If fact, this is a problem that is regularly seen across the globe but rarely reported about. For example, when LMV was filming out in the Cayman Islands we interviewed the former head of police for marine conservation. He told us that in the 90s the Cayman Coastguard had to chase Japanese fishing vessels out of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone because the ships were stealing tuna.
More recently, the BBC has reported a dispute between Spain and Gibraltar, a UK territory on the southern tip of Spain. According to the report, Spanish naval police escorted several Spanish fishing vessels into Gibraltar waters where they cast their nets near to Gibraltar harbour. The Royal Gibraltar Police surrounded the vessels, who did not leave the area until a Royal Navy ship, HMS Sabre (above) arrived on the scene. The use of large nets in Gibraltar waters is illegal under an environmental law. Although Spain disagrees with the UK’s ownership of Gibraltar, which has been a colony since 1713, the standoff between Spanish police and a UK military vessel is still surprising considering it is between two European countries. Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz stated to reporters: “We are not going to accept intimidations or humiliations. What the government is doing is defending the fishing rights of our fishermen.”
This particular clash comes amid a growing argument between northern and southern European countries on reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP, see the hard work done by British chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittenstall and his Fish Fight, above). Northern countries, such as those from Scandinavia, Germany and the UK have been pushing for greater reforms to the CFP in order to reduce discards, reduce the size of fishing fleets, and increase wild fish stocks. Their efforts have been sabotaged by southern countries such as Spain, Portugal and France who are more interested in the short-term future of their large fishing industries. The fact that these reforms are being discussed seriously at all is a huge step but also highlights just how serious the problem of over-fishing has become. Clashes such as those between Gibraltar and Spain and China and the Philippines are only going to become more common. Whereas violence is very unlikely in the northern Mediterranean due to the overarching influence of the EU, LMV is not so optimistic about the problem of the South China Sea.