Dozens of Spanish fishing boats enter Gibraltar waters in protest over artificial reef that some say restricts fishing

It may be a far cry from the Spanish Armada of 1588, but Spanish fishing boats lining up to protest against an artificial reef on the border between Spain and Gibraltar this weekend still proved a formidable force.

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A total of 38 Spanish boats were met by the Royal Gibraltar Police as they protested against the artificial reef that was created by the UK government.

The reef was originally created in 1973 to help marine life and increase fish stocks by sinking boats, and even occasionally cars. However, earlier this year concrete blocks were laid on the seabed by Gibraltar, which Spanish fishermen say are ripping their nets.

Spanish fishermen are arguing that the British government laid the 70 blocks – some of which have steel bars protruding – in a deliberate bid to restrict their fishing.

Spanish Guardia Civil boats joined the Spanish fishermen, but warned them not to sail too close to the British reef. The protest even managed to cross the border into Gibraltan waters, although it was later pushed back by the Royal Gibraltar Police.

The protest comes as a diplomatic fight between Spain and Britain gathers pace, with Spain introducing a €50 charge for all cars passing the border, which David Cameron says contradicts the EU’s right of free movement.

The type 23 Frigate HMS Westminster arrived in Gibraltar at 7.15am today as part of a long-term deployment of Royal Navy vessels to the Med and the Gulf, although its arrival is seen as symbolic by some.