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Spanish Supreme Court risks opening the high seas to crime and impunity

Oceana calls the decision an international disgrace and appeals

Spanish Supreme Court agreed this week to consider Oceana’s appeal requesting the nullification of their ruling in favour of Vidal Armadores. As the Spanish newspaper El Confidencial unveiled, the Supreme Court decided in December to file the case against Vidal Armadores, who were prosecuted in Spanish National Court for almost a decade of pirate fishing of valuable Patagonian toothfish in Antarctic waters. Vidal Armadores - the company, and the individuals behind it - were charged with environmental crime, money laundering, forged documentation and organised crime.

To add insult to injury, the Supreme Court decision was not limited to ignoring fisheries crimes. The decision may in fact apply to all crimes conducted by Spanish nationals in the high seas, with limited exceptions such as terrorism, or drug trafficking. Furthermore, according to one of the Supreme Court judges, who voted against the ruling, “…this would imply that shooting dead, from a flagless vessel, shipwreck survivors fighting for their lives wouldn’t be prosecuted in Spain even if the culprits were Spanish nationals, living in Spain and landing in Spanish territory.” 

“We were incredulous at the decision of the Spanish Supreme Court. We simply refused to accept that Spain decided to leave the high seas wide open to crime. We couldn’t believe that the Courts decided to water down the pioneering efforts of the Spanish administration in combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing. Enabling these operators to continue their activity is an embarrassment to Spain and an international disgrace. Oceana does not accept it. We call on the Supreme Court to reconsider and allow our organization to have a say, which we were denied in the current ruling”, stated Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe

Oceana has been campaigning for the last decade to tackle illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing conducted by Spanish nationals on the high seas. The organization welcomed pioneering steps taken by the Spanish Government in the Sparrow I, Sparrow II and Yuyus operations, which concluded with record-breaking sanctions amounting to 17 million euros against the Vidal Armadores holding.