Letter: Fish wars: Spain sails against Canada and the Commonwealth

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your report on the Canada-EU "fish war" ("EU points finger at Canada in fish war," 11 March) failed to take note of the two most important points at issue in the dispute. First, extensive negotiation with the EU over the past 15 years and more has totally failed to halt the rape of North Atlantic fish stocks by European vessels. The result is the present commercial extinction of all the most significant Grand Banks species, with devastating economic and social consequences for eastern Canada. European belligerence on the issue has been quite breathtaking, to the extent that a stand had finally to be taken; as a Canadian from the region, I am glad to see that it was taken.

Secondly, the chief offenders in the commercial extinction of the main North Atlantic species over the past 15 years have been Spanish vessels, well-known in Canada and beyond as being without scruple on these matters. The very Spanish fleet presently in question has decimated fish stocks not only on the Grand Banks, but also off Africa. Spanish practice has involved more than simple overfishing through the exceeding of set quotas; the Spanish are known to make regular use of grossly undersized mesh, leading to the annual destruction of hundreds of thousands of tons of juvenile fish of all species, before they can reproduce. Canadian fishermen have bitterly dubbed these Spanish nets "pantyhose". It is the refusal of Europeans to comply with decent and lawful Canadian conservation regulations governing such questions, and not just Spain's refusal to abide by internationally agreed quotas, which has at length led to Canada's recent, long-overdue action.

As members of the EU, your readers should be aware that its spokespersons have been supporting such rogues in recent days. Furthermore, British and Irish fishermen should be warned of what lies in store for their domestic fishery, for Spanish vessels, many of them with the same owners, same names on their bows, same masters and crew, are to be allowed into these waters in coming years under the Common Fisheries Policy. It would be wise for the EU itself to bring the Spanish under control, rather than to continue to support their destructive practices.

Yours faithfully,


Dunfermline, Fife

13 March