At which point they upped rods and fled for Gibraltan waters.
More information has now come to light about the latest blow-up between the Gibraltar government and local Guardia Civil. Initial reports gave scant details about the incident, other than that a Guardia Civil patrol boat had detained two Gibraltarian nationals within Gibraltar waters on Friday evening. The incident had been described as an "illegal incursion" by Spanish forces into Gibraltar waters by Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar Governor, and as "disgraceful, intolerable and illegal by David Lidington, the British Secretary of state.
On Wednesday, the Spanish Ministry of external affairs summoned Daniel Pruce, Chargé d'Affaires at the British Embassy in Madrid, in order to present a written note in which they rejected complaints presented by the British diplomatic service.
Carmen Crespo, the Government Delegate in Andalucia, said that the Guardia Civil were "only doing their job" and that the officers, "only invited a pleasure craft that had caught a 200 kg red tuna, in breach of EU regulations to accompany them to the port of Algeciras."
It appears that the two "fishermen" accompanied to port were in fact, anglers, successfully fishing illegally for red tuna, in fact, at the time that they were approached by the Guardia, had a 208 kilo bluefin tuna on board, which had been caught just minutes before, in breach of EU regulations.
Wild bluefin tuna carry a protection status due to the very real risk of extinction and fishing for bluefin without the correct licences carries stiff penalties.
The anglers in question were 8 miles from the coast when they were approached by the Guardia Civil patrol boat, and rather than waiting to explain what they were doing, upped rods, and headed at speed for the Gibraltar Coast, and what they thought was the safety of Gibraltan waters.
They were apprehended by the patrol boat half a nautical mile from Gibraltar, inside Gibraltar waters, at which point, depending on which report you choose to believe, they were either invited to accompany the officers to Algeciras, or taken there involuntarily.
Guardia Civil officers commandeered their boat, and switched off. Navigation lights before heading towards Algeciras. According to the anglers, the two vessels were approached by Gibraltan police, but the Guardia resolutely refused to allow their prize catch to slip through their fingers and continued on their course out of Gibraltan waters.
They were released four hours later, minus their catch and some of their fishing equipment which was held back as evidence, in order for charges to be pressed.
The Spanish Secretary of State for foreign affairs, said that their activities had been at all times. "correct and legal," and that the version reported in the British press did not tally with reality.
However, there can be no disputing the fact that fishing bluefin tuna without the correct licences is illegal and the anglers concerned broke EU law.
Carmen Crespo went on to say that the arrests "have nothing to do with the ongoing fishing dispute, which we all want to end for the sake of Spanish fishermen and for the sake of Gibraltar."
On 3 August the Spanish fishermen and Gibraltar authorities will meet again to try and reach agreement in relation to the fishing dispute which arose in March.
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