THE CREATOR of the reef at the centre of the diplomatic row between Spain and the UK has hit out at the ‘misinformed’ Spanish government, whose fishing industry has been its key beneficiary.
Dr Eric Shaw told The Guardian the furore was a politically-motivated diversionary tactic and there have been no complaints about the reef since he began building it in 1973.
He said the Spanish government has received millions of euros of EU money to create its own reefs. It has built a number along the coasts of Malaga, Granada and Almeria, which have all been modelled on the one at the centre of the row.
Shaw said: “All the Spanish authorities have ever asked us is how do we construct it.
“The reef is good for Spain and its fishermen above all because the fish breed there. They can be caught anywhere,”
The reef is made of around 30 old vessels, and is now the largest in Europe. It is extended when funds are available, or when old boats are donated to the conservation charity The Helping Hand.
Shaw said: “Before we started constructing the reef there was just sand and no life. We tried to provide an oasis by dropping old boats there. It is now a fish nursery. Bream and, in season, tuna spawn there as well as invertebrates.
“The sandy seabed has been replaced by a community of highly diverse marine life. The reef has no intention beyond conservation.”
The row escalated in the week when a formal complaint was lodged in a La Linea court alleging that nine Gibraltar government ministers had committed an environmental crime under Spanish law by ordering the creation of the reef.
The case is unlikely to be heard because the reef is entirely in Gibraltarian waters.
Find out what columnist Belinda Beckett had to say about her experience in the queue.