The continued detention of three trawlers from Bulgaria, apprehended on 23rd March in the Romanian EEZ is the latest episide in a dispute over equal access to EU waters in the Black Sea that goes back to 2011.
The three trawlers were intercepted 55 nautical miles east of the Romanian port of Constanta – inside the Romanian EEZ, but in EU waters – on the grounds that they were fishing for dogfish during a prohibition of fishing for turbot that was applied only by the Romanian authorities.
Each trawler had around 600kg of turbot and 100kg of dogfish on board at the time of their arrest.
According to Bulgarian industry federation Black Sea Sunrise, the continued detention ordered by a Romanian court is based on Romania law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, without taking into account EU law which should apply in this instance.
‘There is no ban on catching dogfish, nor is the trawl used by Bulgarian vessels prohibited,’ a representative of Black Sea Sunrise commented.
The Romanian authorities have been quoted as saying that time is needed ‘to assess the real damage to the marine ecosystem.’
The owners and skippers of the three Bulgarian trawlers are being prosecuted.
According to Black Sea Sunrise, the reason for this is that Romania hopes to exclude Bulgarian vessels from its waters, preventing equal access to EU waters, while the unofficial side of this is that the arrest of the three trawlers was ordered as the Bulgarian vessels had towed through fixed gear set by Romanian fishermen.
The dispute dating back to 2011 occurred when Romanian authorities arrested a Bulgarian fishing vessel and prosecuted skipper Hristo Spasov. This was followed by a ten-year process of litigation, culminating in the Court of Human Rights finding against Romania for failing to apply EU law.