It’s a bit rich!

Dear Sir,

The Catalan Bay Traditional Fishing Methods Group (CBTFMG) is wrong to suggest that the Gibraltar Federation of Sea Anglers (GFSA) blames the use of longlines as the ‘sole fishing method responsible for the reduction of certain species’, that analysis is too simplistic. GFSA knows that the accelerating decline of marine life in British Gibraltar is caused by a several factors. But it cannot allow the CBTFMG to misinform the community with its unwarranted attack on the sports fishing community in Gibraltar. 

One of GFSA’s intentions in going public is to put a different and more plausible perspective, and to stop the one-sided debate that puts the blame on what is happening in BGTW on the shoulders of our nearest neighbours. Whilst they are not blame free, what is happening in BGTW is also down to the fishing practises that are used in Gibraltar by the local fishing community. If we, as a community, are going to solve the problems that there are with marine life in BGTW, then we need to start taking ownership, accept responsibility for what is happening and do something about it. The time to do it is now.

Unfortunately, the CBTFMG does not seem to be prepared to accept that they are part of the problem. Not content on promoting the falsehood that ‘Spanish nets’ are to blame for the sorry state of fish stocks in Gibraltar they have now chosen to turn their attack on the sports angling community and blame them for declining fish stocks in BGTW, whilst suggesting that longlining is and ‘has been sustainable over these many years’. It seems that they are unable to accept any responsibility for what is happening in BGTW. This position is not credible.

It is true that sports anglers are part of the problem. GFSA recognises this and is not trying to blame another group of anglers as a way of obfuscating or hiding its own responsibility. The Association is only too aware that sports anglers contribute to the problems in BGTW but there is a wide gulf between those using longlines that consists of up to 600 hooks and a sport angler who is limited to using 2 rods and a maximum of 6 hooks.

One of the main aims of the Angling for Change Campaign that was led by GFSA and successfully pressed the Government into introducing the marine regulations was precisely aimed at ensuring that ‘Cottage Industry’ commercial fishing and sports angling were defined and regulated differently.

When the marine regulations were being drawn up, the first draft included separate regulatory regimes for commercial activity and sport fishing. GFSA and other stakeholders were consulted on these and it was the Cottage Industry commercials who objected to the specific provisions affecting them directly within this first draft because they did not want their activities to be regulated tightly. As a community you need to ask yourselves why they did this. They lobbied Government and succeeded in deleting any mention of commercial fishing in BGTW. The Government then introduced the marine regulations without a clear difference, definition or regulatory regime between commercial and sport fishing with all the problems that that has created.

So, it’s a bit rich for the CBTFMG to be turning their attention to the sport fishing community and blame them for the depletion of fish stocks in Gibraltar. Its Spanish nets today, unscrupulous sports anglers yesterday or tomorrow but it’s never us. When are the CBTFMG going to face up to the truth! GFSA is adamant that if the CBTFMG had accepted the need for a clear definition of each type of fishing with an accompanying regulatory regime for each that there would not be the free for all that there now exists in BGTW and fish stocks would be healthier today.

As part of its Angling for Change GFSA supported the regulation of sport fishing with the use of catch limits when the law was first being drafted. It proposed that sport anglers be limited to an aggregate catch of 5kg of fish plus a heaviest fish (una pieza mayor). It still stands firmly behind this position. But GFSA cannot support a catch limit like this being imposed on sports anglers unilaterally and leave ‘commercial’ activity undefined and unregulated, so that they can go out and catch what they want without limits.

The Government has declared a ‘climate emergency’. The challenge for the community is to come together to declare a ‘marine environment emergency’ in BGTW now and work collectively to find solutions that will stop it declining further. No one group can be above taking responsibility for the disastrous state of the marine environment. There is still time. Are we prepared to save it for future generations of Gibraltarians to enjoy!

Gibraltar Federation of Sea Anglers