Spanish and Moroccan fishermen are in the front-line of a dispute between their two countries.?
Spanish and Moroccan fishermen are in the front-line of a dispute between their two countries. King Hassan is about to approve legislation which would extend Morocco's territorial limits from 12 to 70 miles.
A draft decree, instituting the new limit has been adopted by the Moroccan Government and will become law when ratified by the King.
The new limit would bar Spanish fishermen from valuable tuna and sardine grounds in the Atlantic, although the Moroccans say they will eventually allow foreign vessels to fish the area between 12 and 70 miles off the Moroccan coast.
Exchanges of gunfire between Spanish and Moroccan naval patrols, and seizure of fishing boats, have been reported since the previous agreement between Spain and Morocco on territorial waters expired on December 31.
Spanish protests against the proposed territorial extension have been met by arguments that the change is aimed at protecting the Moroccan fishing industry, based mainly on Agadir and Safi, two of the largest sardine fishing ports in the world. The industry has been meeting increasingly keen competition from foreign fleets in the disputed waters.
The 70-mile limit would be reduced to the centre line in such areas as the 18-mile Straits of Gibraltar to the north, and between South Morocco and the Canary Islands, which are 70 miles off the Moroccan coast.
SYNOPSIS: Deep sea fishing has always been tough, but for Moroccan and Spanish fishermen the going could get tougher if the Moroccan government goes ahead with plans to extend its territorial waters to 70 miles. A three-year agreement between Spain and Morocco, setting the limit at 12 miles, expired two months ago.
Tension has been mounting ever since, with each side claiming the other has seized or hampered its fishing vessels. Naval vessels of the two countries are reported to have exchanged gunfire in the most serious incident to date. Morocco says the 70-mile limit is to protect its fishing industry, but the spanish have protested bitterly that it will bar them from valuable sardine and tuna grounds in the Atlantic.