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Garat has requested to strengthen and optimize security measures in the fishing sector to safely confront the scourge of piracy and illegal fishing

The fishing sector requests to strengthen and renew operation ATALANTA in the Indian Ocean

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Sunday, May 12, 2024, 16:00 (GMT + 9)

During the presentation ceremony of the National Maritime Security Strategy

Madrid - The fishing sector has expressed the need to renew the Atalanta military operation to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean and bring Navy vessels closer to the areas of activity of fishing vessels. This was stated by Javier Garat, president of the Spanish Maritime Cluster (CME) and general secretary of the Spanish Fisheries Confederation (CEPESCA), during the presentation of the National Maritime Security Strategy, held at the Higher Studies Center of the National Defense (CESEDEN).
Garat, who has requested to strengthen and optimize security measures in the fishing sector to safely confront the scourge of piracy and illegal fishing, has also pointed out the new sources of conflict and the risks faced by the Spanish fishing fleet. , both in the national fishing ground and in non-Spanish EU waters, or in those of third countries or the high seas.
Thus, within our own waters, Garat has mentioned the illegal practices of the Moroccan fleets in the Mediterranean when using drifting gillnets to fish despite their prohibition, the harassment by the Gibraltar authorities of the Spanish fishing vessels in of Spain, drug trafficking in the Linea or Guadalquivir area, illegal immigration or competition with other economic sectors that also compete at sea, such as gas or offshore wind.
Regarding non-Spanish EU waters, Garat has pointed out the relations with the United Kingdom after Brexit and the renegotiation of the conditions of access to its waters and the fishing possibilities in the shared stocks that must occur in 2026, or the complex relations with Norway since Brexit due to its “aggressive” stance against the already consolidated fishing interests of the EU.
Thus, Garat recalled Norway's appropriation of part of the cod quota of the community fleet in the waters surrounding Spitzbergen and its decision to unilaterally set excessive and unjustified mackerel quotas, "which causes overfishing." Garat has stated that international law is being violated and that the European Commission has not been able to respond adequately, to which he added that Russian fish continues to be allowed to enter through Norway.
With regard to the waters of third countries and the high seas, and in addition to the piracy in the Indian Ocean mentioned above and that of the Gulf of Guinea, Garat has also pointed out other possible sources of tension created, for example, by the authorization of Norway to explore its underwater mineral resources, opening the door to possible conflicts in the waters of Svalbard and the Barents Sea. He has also mentioned the offshore oil exploration activities authorized by Canada in the NAFO (Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization) regulation area, and in the same locations prohibited to bottom fishing to protect the identified vulnerable marine ecosystems. by Spanish scientists from the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO), in collaboration with the General Secretariat of Fisheries of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
Likewise, he pointed out the great controversy that the phosphate mining project in Namibia is generating, or China's dubious fishing activities in the waters of the Southwest Atlantic (mile 201 off the coast of Argentina) in the absence of a Regional Fisheries Organization ( ORP) that regulates the activity as a consequence of the disagreements between the United Kingdom and Argentina over the Malvinas Islands.
Garat has also described as dangerous the strategic scientific-fishery collaboration agreements between China and Russia "that are bringing the Chinese closer to the EU coasts in the Barents Sea" and the illegal approaches by conservation activists from organizations such as Greenpeace or Be Shepard.
During the event, the importance of the Spanish fishing sector, the leader in Europe in fishing production, was highlighted, which generates 31,000 direct jobs and some 200,000 indirect jobs, captures 800,000 tons of fish and seafood per year, and registers an average annual turnover in the first sale of 2,000 million euros, which represents more than 10,000 million euros of added value. The fleet (8,549 vessels) carries out 95.5% of its activity in the national fishing ground; Around 100 boats fish in the community fishing grounds, and just over 250 boats do so in the waters of third countries or on the high seas.
Garat, who has pointed out that “Spain has one of the most powerful fishing inspection and control systems in the world, recognized by the EU Court of Auditors”, has stated that security is strategic for the blue economy, especially in activities such as maritime transport or fishing.
It should be remembered that according to the latest Report on Piracy and Armed Robbery prepared by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), the number of ships attacked by pirates around the world increased in 2023, the year in which it was also recorded the first effective kidnapping in waters off Somalia since 2017. Hence the public request to the Government, made by the CME, to negotiate in Brussels the active maintenance of the Atalanta operation against piracy, given its importance in guaranteeing transit security and navigation through the Horn of Africa and its proven effectiveness, said Garat.

Operation Atalanta, which will end on December 13, has prevented and disrupted a large number of pirate attacks and, as a result, 154 piracy suspects have been legally prosecuted, and 261 armed pirate groups have been neutralized since 2008.

“Security is especially important for Spain, an eminently maritime country, therefore forced to contemplate new threats. Which also encourages us to collaborate with all Administrations in this field,” said Garat, who has opted for the necessary public-private collaboration for the strengthening and development of security strategies that affect us. In his opinion, this line should be delved deeper and worked more profusely.
In addition to Javier Garat, the following participated in the presentation of the National Maritime Security Strategy: Carlota García, principal analyst of the Resal Instituto Elcano, Alfredo Ortega, operational director of the Department of National Security (DSN), Elena Seco, general director of the Association of Spanish Shipowners and Antonio Notario, secretary of the National Maritime Safety Council.


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