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Spain pledges support in illegal fishing probe
Catherine Sasman

25th June 2004

The Spanish Embassy told New Era this week that it would give its full cooperation in the investigation of the Spanish registered vessel caught fishing in Namibian waters last week.

First secretary of the embassy, Carlos Aragon, said the Spanish position on illegal fishing was and always will be respectful of Namibia's laws and legislation in the protection of its rights over its waters, but added that it was difficult for that government to exert control over all its nationals and their activities. He said it was particularly difficult in the instance of the Maral, now moored at Lüderitz awaiting trial of its captain on July 1, as it was South African commissioned.

"Even if the government tries to enforce Spanish and European laws it cannot," said Aragon. He was however quick to add that most Spanish companies with fishing interests in Namibia were very positive and desirous to maintain friendly relations with the Namibian government and their counterparts.

"Our attitude is that we have a strong commitment regarding Namibia's development through technical and other support such as job creation in Walvis Bay and Lüderitz," Aragon said.

The vessel was caught fishing in the Namibian exclusive economic zone (EEZ) by the Nathaniel Maxuilili patrol vessel with their fishing gear in the waters.

Meanwhile, a South African citizen from Cape Town, who identified himself as Gavin Schreuder, sent out a letter to most Namibian media, Prime Minister Theo-Ben Gurirab, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Abraham Iyambo, and the minister of foreign affairs, appealing for clemency for the ship and its crew.

Schreuder told New Era telephonically that he had no link with the ship and its crew, saying that he was merely a concerned citizen that the crew gets a fair trial in Namibia. Schreuder said he is an exporter of clothes, and not involved in the fishing sector at all. "I just want people to look at the case with open eyes," he said. "These things get blown out of proportion."

In his letter Schreuder went on to say that the crew and owner of the Maral have been "listed and unfairly treated as criminals".

"Whilst throwing their lines in Namibian waters, the captain and officer on the bridge considered themselves to be in South African waters. He [the captain on being spotted by the patrol vessel] made no attempt to escape or to throw their small catch overboard as they truly believe they were in legitimate waters plus they were in possession of valid [South African] licenses and permits," Schreuder wrote.