May: CIRCULAR 2A./2006


In application of domestic Law 3/2001 of State Marine Fishing, in February 2006 for the first time a fishing vessel was arrested in the Mediterranean port of Palamós (Catalonia, Spain) by the General Directorate of Fishing Resources (Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing  -MAPA-) as a precautionary measure for an alleged infringement of capturing fishes smaller than the allowed size. Together with the arrest, the licence for fishing was withdrawn until the owner deposited a guarantee of  3,000 € to release the arrest and recover the licence.

As from then, this arrest has been followed by several arrests to fishing vessels in the Spanish Mediterranean ports of Tarragona, Valencia and Alicante due to lack of compliance with law 3/2001 (i.e. irregular means of fishing, fishing in non authorized areas). In every incident, owners had to deposit a minimum bail of 3,000 € if they wanted their vessel released.

These measures, now taking place in the Spanish Mediterranean ports, follow a more tight control by Spanish Fishing Inspectors, who are allowed by law to access the vessel (either at sea or in port) for inspection and also check all documentation on board. Lack of collaboration during the inspection will be fined. These measures most probably will shortly take place in the Spanish northern ports of Galicia and Cantabric. In the Canary Islands a fishing vessels’s cargo was recently retained during 13 days whilst the authorities checked the origin of the captured fish, despite she was not detained.

Law 3/2001 is applicable, not only to Spanish fishing vessels, but also to fishing vessels registered in the EU or in third countries sailing in Spanish jurisdictional waters, in accordance to UE regulations and other regulations such as treaties, agreements and international conventions.

This law establishes the various infringements, all of them of an administrative nature, which can be:

  • Infringements related to fishing activities in exterior waters (it includes Spanish territorial waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone at 200 nautical miles, and in the Mediterranean Sea until 37 nautical miles) (from 12 miles to 200 nautical miles from the coast), such as fishing without permits/necessary certificates; fishing in protective zones, violation of international regulations, agreements or treaties; use of non permitted means for fishing – i.e. explosives -, manipulating fishing record books, lack of collaboration during the inspection, etc.), or,
  • Infringements related to the dispositions of the fishing sector and the commercialisation of fishing products (i.e. the presentation of false documentation or information).

The sanction against the fishing vessel depends on the type of infringement:

  • Small infringement, fines from 60 € up to 300 €
  • Severe infringement, fines from 301 € up to 60,000 €
  • Very severe infringement, fines from 60,001 € up to 300,000 €

In addition to the fine, the authorities can also establish other additional measures such as the arrest of the ship, the disqualification for realising fishing activities for a maximum of five years, seizure of the cargo, seizure of the fishing means, etc.. The application of this additional measures will depend on the type of infringement and whether the vessel is recidivist.

It should be noted that detention of the vessel, as well as the additional measures to the fine, can be adopted verbally in urgent situations, and have to be ratified in written during the following five days. The guarantee to release the vessel has to be given within a one month period otherwise the vessel will be confiscated.

The competent authorities to start the sanctioning procedures vary depending on the type of infringement, going from the Governmental Delegation (small infringements) to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishing and Alimentation (very severe infringements over the amount of 150,000 €). The procedure will be launched against ship owners, charterers, Master or any Director involved in the fishing activity.

Our advise to owners and Masters is that they ensure that their fishing vessels realise their activities within the allowed areas in the Spanish jurisdictional waters, that they keep updated all the required documentation related to the provenance of the fishing products, and that in case of any doubt concerning this activity, visit the MAPA web site in:

Should you have any queries, you should not hesitate to contact us.