Gibraltar fires back at Spain after it claims waters around Rock are ‘not British’


Gibraltar has hit back at Spain's claims

Oliver Trapnell

By Oliver Trapnell

Published: 25/08/2023

- 11:18

Updated: 25/08/2023

- 11:30

Gibraltar’s leader cheekily offered to teach the Spanish mayor about international law

A Spanish mayor has hit out at Gibraltar claiming the waters surrounding the Rock are “not British”.

José Ignacio Landaluce, the mayor of Algeciras, which sits overlooking the Bay of Gibraltar, has denied that Britain has sovereignty in the waters surrounding the strategic port and has demanded the British territory stop harassing his country’s vessels.

Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo has explained to Landaluce that as per international law, the sea around the Rock is “exclusively British”.

Picardo even went as far as to offer Landaluce a lesson in international law.

View of Casemates Square, Gibraltar.

View of Casemates Square, Gibraltar


The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea “stipulates that no territory can have a dry coast” meaning that sovereignty does not end at a country’s immediate coastline but rather extends a certain distance into “surrounding waters”.

Picardo said: “If Mr Landaluce truly believes the waters surrounding Gibraltar are anything other than entirely British, he is either incapable of understanding the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea or he simply refuses to respect it."

He added to Europasur: “I have already told him that I am more than willing to meet with him to explain the Convention line by line and show him that the waters around Gibraltar are exclusively British.”

Landaluce also demanded that Gibraltar stop harassing Spanish vessels after a number of allegations that Spanish fishing boats had been charged with fishing in “illegal waters” and of “dangerous navigation”.


The Rock of Gibraltar

The Rock of Gibraltar


“They are not going to stop trying to take from us what belongs to Spain and what international law and the Treaty of Utrecht establish,” the 64-year-old Spaniard told El Confidencial.

He went on to accuse Gibraltian authorities of escalating tensions, adding: “Gibraltar does not own the waters of the Bay [of Gibraltar] and the eastern side.

“We are suffering unauthorised pressure on Spanish vessels.

“This time it has been the turn of the fishing boat Mi Daniela, whose owners are making a living at sea and in the area where they have always done so in search of their family's livelihood.”

The latest row comes after Spain “illegally restrained” the crew members of a Gibraltian vessel sailing in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.

Officers of Spain’s Servicio de Vigilancia Aduanera forced themselves onto the British vessel and attempted to take executive action on 14 August.

The Rock’s Government said: “One of the crew members of the Gibraltar vessel appears to have been illegally restrained by a Spanish operative who boarded their vessel despite lacking jurisdiction to take any action within Gibraltar or the internationally recognised British waters around it.

“The other crew members of the Gibraltar vessel were taken aboard an HM Customs vessel whilst Gibraltar law enforcement searched the Ultimate Predator and liaised with the SVA.

“HM Customs is satisfied, having subsequently searched the Ultimate Predator, and having tracked its movements, that it had been carrying out a legitimate crew transfer to a merchant ship in BGTW and that its navigational lights and AIS had malfunctioned.”

Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo labelled the incident “an unacceptable reflection” of Madrid’s failure to recognise the sovereignty of the Rock.

He said: “The unfortunate failure of the navigational lights and AIS of a vessel can, rightly, give rise to suspicion on the part of law enforcement agencies patrolling BGTW. HM Customs was dealing with the matter.

“The engagement of a foreign law enforcement agency, however, without any communication or coordination with Gibraltar law enforcement, is illegal and unacceptable.

“The Spanish officers in question have potentially committed offences against Gibraltar law and I am asking that the matter must be forcefully raised with Spain.

“They were out of their jurisdiction and they were acting illegally in restraining a person in Gibraltar without legal authority to do so. That is worse than unacceptable.”

Following the incident, Downing Street has demanded an explanation from Madrid.

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