Brussels, 9 March 1995
The European Commission condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the seizure by the Canadian authorities of a Spanish fishing vessel in international waters. The arrest which took place outside Canada's jurisdiction, is a flagrant violation of the law of the sea. Furthermore, it has been carried out despite strenuous efforts made by the European Union to find a diplomatic solution to the problem of sharing out fishing quotas in the international waters regulated by the North-West Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO).
Over the past few days, the European Union has made several approaches to the Canadian authorities at the highest level in order to seek to resolve the matter. Most recently, President Santer invited a Canadian delegation for talks in Brussels. The offer has been refused.
The European Union has shown its determination to protect stocks of Greenland halibut by accepting an overall NAFO quota which would require a sharp reduction in the European Union's traditional fishing levels. Thus, although European Union vessels caught 44.000t of Greenland halibut in 1994, the European Union supported a decision to impose an overall limit of 27.000t on fishing for this species in 1995. In this way the European Union demonstrated clearly its commitment to safeguard fishing stocks. Canada then insisted on forcing a vote on a share-out of this total which disregards the European Union's recent fishing patterns, which are the usual basis for international fishing allocations. Under the cloak of conservation, Canada has taken an unacceptably and unjustifiably high share of the total for itself.
The Commission regrets that Canada, which normally supports and upholds international law, has chosen the course of unilateral aggression. Faced with this illegal interference with its legitimate right to fish in international waters, the European Union will not stand still. First of all, the Commission is seeking an urgent meeting of NAFO so as to discuss the issue in the appropriate multilateral forum. The European Union does not want this situation to escalate. However, if Canada fails to show due restraint in its actions and continues to demonstrate lack of respect for its international commitments, the European Union will be obliged to consider further action to defend its legitimate rights.