Gibraltar police mobilized on Thursday for the second consecutive day to prevent Spanish fishing boats from casting nets in waters near the Rock.
Accompanied by two Spanish Civil Guard vessels, five fishing boats set out from this southern city at around 9:30 p.m. and made their way toward the southern entrance of the port of Gibraltar.
The same area was the scene Wednesday night of an incident involving fishing boats, Civil Guard patrols and Gibraltarian police craft.
Almost as soon as the fishing boats arrived at the port entrance Thursday night, the Gibraltarian patrols moved in to prevent the Spanish from deploying their nets.
The Gibraltar police displayed “the same aggressiveness as yesterday,” a crewmember from the fishing boat Union Vazquez Blanco told Efe.
The Gibraltarian craft engaged in “dangerous maneuvers,” darting between the Spanish boats at high speed and apparently hitting one of them, the crewmember said.
“If they continue this way, we’ll have no choice but to leave,” the owner of one fishing boat said. “We haven’t come here to provoke, we have come to see if they have changed their position.”
The current conflict began in March, when Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo abrogated a 1999 accord that allowed fishing boats from La Linea and Algeciras to operate in waters near the British Crown Colony.
Picardo deemed the pact invalid because it clashed with a 1991 Gibraltar law banning all fishing with nets.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said Wednesday that he will convey an offer of dialogue with Britain over the future of Gibraltar when he travels to London next week for talks with British counterpart William Hague.
He also stressed that Spain will defend its fishing rights in the Bay of Gibraltar, known to Spaniards as Bahia de Algeciras.
The 1713 treaty that is the basis for Britain’s claim to sovereignty over the Rock limits British maritime control to the port of Gibraltar, Garcia-Margallo said.
He urged a return to the terms of the 1999 accord between Gibraltarian authorities and Spanish fishermen.
Renewed conflict over fishing rights and the forthcoming visit to Gibraltar by Britain’s Prince Edward have led to tensions between Madrid and London.
The question of sovereignty over Gibraltar must be resolved “exclusively” by Spain and Britain, “without intervention” by the Rock’s elected officials, Garcia-Margallo said, insisting that the Gibraltarians will not have the power to veto a prospective accord.
Gibraltar is a territory of 5.5 square kilometers (2.1 square miles) on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. It has been held by Britain since 1704 and became a British Crown Colony in 1713 in accord with the Treaty of Utrecht.
The Rock currently has some 30,000 residents, who overwhelmingly rejected a 2002 proposal for Britain to share sovereignty over the territory with Spain.