Saturday, April 14, 2012


I started writing my weekly Gibraltar Viewpoint column back in 1992 and over the years would happily stand aside and let my readers have their say. Sometimes I carried letter agreeing with my stance other missives taking me to task. Settle down Peter Richard C, it’s too late to send in a letter now!

When the row over fishing in Gibraltar waters started I referred to the verbal agreement by the former chief minister, Peter Richard C, to allow the Spanish fishermen to use and even abuse our waters. I also touched on the memories of the Icelandic cod wars. This has prompted a Panorama reader, PJH, to write to me with his memories on both events which I believe deserve a wider audience.

“Dear David, Fishing for trouble.  I remember (with startling clarity) the events at the end of the 90s which lead to Caruana dropping his trousers for the Algeciras fishermen.

There was the confiscation of illegal nets, the arrest of the Piranha and its subsequent return 24 hours later, to the chagrin of the RGP.

There was the fisherman’s secondary border (less than 100 yards inside Spain), where they examined passports whilst the Guardia Civil and Policia National sniggered and the fisherman refused entry or egress to just about everybody.

I remember the Linenses who were not allowed to go home and were put up at St Teresa’s church overnight.

Mostly I remember the meeting at Convent Place between Uncle Peter and Pedro Massa (spokesman for the fisherman’s cooperative) where Uncle Peter discovered that Pedro was a bigger and better bully than he.... resulting in him caving in totally and making the so called agreement.

One of the things often repeated at the time (but less so now) is that the whole affair centred around illegal nets.... not just illegal in Gibraltar’s marine nature reserve but also illegal in any of the legitimate commercial fishing areas of Spain’s littoral.  However, the Algeciras fishermen did not accept that - it seems that, as in Gibraltar, the law only applies to some people and not others - what is it they say in Spain?

Why hire a lawyer when you can buy a judge?

PS: I also have clear recollection of the mid 70s Cod Wars, which seems to differ considerably from the official version and perhaps from yours.

I remember the Royal Navy being sent to protect Icelandic gunboats from the Fleetwood and Grimsby trawlers who were dishing out a battering to anyone in range.

In particular I recall the Wyre Defence and Wyre Victory coming away with the Odin’s trawl cutting equipment and another gunboat (Thor perhaps) having all her bridge windows smashed by nuts and bolts fired from a bicycle-inner-tube-catapult on board another Fleetwood boat who mean times played Land of Hope and Glory over his tannoy.  The Navy had to separate them before the defeat of the gunboats provoked an international incident.