Spanish forced to stop fishing

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The Independent Online
Spanish trawlers ceased fishing in disputed north Atlantic waters off the coast of Newfoundland yesterday, after Canadian fisheries officials took action against one of the vessels.

"Our goal today was to make them stop fishing and that is the case," a spokeswoman for the Canadian Fisheries Minister, Brian Tobin, said.

Fisheries officials confirmed they had acted to halt the Spanish fleet trawling for turbot, or Greenland halibut, on the Grand Banks in international waters just outside Canada's 200-nautical-mile limit but declined to elaborate. Greenpeace Canada observers, monitoring Spanish radio frequencies, said four Canadian patrol boats converged on a Spanish trawler with the intention of boarding, causing the fishing to stop.

Mr Tobin is expected to give details about the action, the latest salvo in Canada's acrimonious dispute about overfishing of turbot, before leaving for New York, where a United Nations conference on fish stocks that straddle international boundaries begins today.

Canada's action yesterday followed a breakdown in negotiations between Canadian and European Union officials in Vancouver.

Eighteen Spanish trawlers were operating in the Grand Banks area. One of the Canadian patrol vessels was equipped with steel blades, which are capable of severing the steel cables that attach the fishing nets to the trawlers.

Following the arrest and subsequent release of a Spanish trawler two weeks ago, and direct communications between the Canadian Prime Minister, Jean Chrtien, and the EU President, Jacques Santer, Canada said it would make another attempt to settle the dispute over how much Greenland halibut should be caught.

But Mr Tobin said on Friday that he was looking at the possibility that "this round of discussions has left us without a solution". Mr Tobin said his department was considering several options to ensure the Spanish vessels "will not have a very good fishing day''.