site.btaUPDATED Bulgarian Authorities Have No Information that Fishermen Detained in Romania Had Broken the Law
Agriculture Minister Yavor Gechev has no information that the Bulgarian fishermen who were detained in Constanta, Romania for allegedly poaching for shark did anything illegal. Gechev told bTV on Sunday that the crews of the three fishing vessels, a total of 10 people, were detained in international waters in the Black Sea, not in Romania's territorial waters.
He said shark fishing is allowed in Bulgaria. Nor is there any EU ban on the practice. "There is a partial ban which the Romanians have imposed on themselves, with respect to Romanian fishermen and territories," he added.
"What we have ascertained so far is that the Bulgarian fishermen did not break the law," Gechev insisted. "Bulgaria will protect its economic interests and the interests of its citizens."
Earlier on Sunday, Deputy Agriculture Minister Georgi Sabev told journalists in the Black Sea town of Balchik: "There is still no official warrant for the detention of the Bulgarian fishing vessels, and this is a cause for serious concern". Sabev met with the returned crews of the three Bulgarian fishing vessels detained in Constanta.
He said: "We have many questions and doubts about the lawfulness of the detention. We gather that the Bulgarian ships were held up exclusively based on requirements of Romanian law, not EU law, in the field of fisheries. EU law takes precedence over all kinds of national decrees, ordinances and instructions."
According to Sabev, the Bulgarians were fishing in an EU aquatory, where they are allowed to catch more fish than the stock quotas. "EU fishing restrictions for the Black Sea apply only to turbot and sprat. Other types of ships of other EU member states can safely fish away. That is what the Bulgarian fishing vessels were doing," he argued.
All parties concerned are invited to an emergency meeting at the Agriculture Ministry in Sofia on Monday, Sabev said. "We will provide full assistance to our sector. We have a direct link to the Bulgarian Ambassador to Romania and various regulatory authorities, including Bulgaria's Executive Agency for Fisheries and Aquaculture [EAFA]."
The Bulgarian inspectors from the EAFA, who participated in the check on the three fishing vessels, did not receive an official document, Sabev noted. "A document was only available in Romanian. It was interpreted into Bulgarian orally on the spot and some points remained unclear. The Bulgarian inspectors reported this in their written opinion, but no such document was provided to them," he said.
Commenting on fishermen's call for the resignation of EAFA Executive Director Vanya Stamatova, Sabev said that "corresponding measures will be taken as soon as the demand to hold her responsible is really proven valid". He noted, however, that the replacement of a government agency chief takes time, and if such an administrative procedure is launched now, "we may do the sector a disfavour".