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James Skinner reports from Vigo land and sea disputes. A fish for fish....

Legend has it that Sir Francis Drake, during his career, looted and burnt some of today’s Galician fishing towns. Known as the all-tim number one English pirate, his tactics must have brushed off onto the locals if French accusations are anything to go by. It appears that sometime towards the end of June, the trawler ‘ Le Lorien’ from Brittany was ‘attacked’ by the Vigo registered boats ‘ Veracruz’ and ‘Santillana de la Cabeza’ whilst fishing off the Irish Box. The Spaniards not only managed to snarl the French boat’s propeller, setting it helplessly adrift but neglected any assistance as per maritime salvage procedures. So states the formal complaint presented to the French Ministries of Agriculture and Foreign Affairs by the owner’s Director, Messier Herve Jantet.

The Spanish version is obviously different. According to the President of the Fishing Boat owners Association of Pasajes, Guipuzcoa, Sr. Martin Aguirre, there was a ‘minor’ dispute between the fishermen regarding the use of unlawful trawling methods. ‘The complaint is a case of trying to inflame the situation by turning an insignificant incident into a criminal act’ he added.
Whatever the eventual outcome, the fact remains that the French trawler had to radio for help in order to be towed safely back to port whilst the ‘aggressors’ returned to their fishing chores.

On a separate and bizarre note, it is hard to imagine that a wooden twenty-foot vintage fishing boat could become the centre of a local territorial dispute. It so happens that such a situation developed in southern Galicia, between the town councils of O Grove, known for its famous clam farms and Sanxenxo, home of the Barrantes wines. A new dual carriageway had recently been inaugurated joining both councils and as a commemorative symbol, the mayor of O Grove installed such a vessel on the only roundabout along its five-mile stretch. His mistake was to paint the words ‘ O Grove’ on its bow. The roundabout happens to be in Sanxenxo territory. The poor innocent fisherman’s tool has already been set alight on three occasions by invisible vandals. Both councils have agreed to iron out the dispute in an amicable manner. As stated by one of Sanxenxo’s authorities: ‘ territorial disputes should be dealt with under judiciary procedures and not by the law of an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth’. The tragedy is, that a beautifully restored fishing boat has been reduced to cinders, reminiscent of a burnt out cavalry fort from an old Hollywood western.’

© James Skinner. 2001

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