GUARDIA, SPAIN: Spanish police have come under fire for sending divers to inspect a concrete reef in Gibraltan waters who then took underwater pictures of themselves unfurling the Spanish flag.

The divers then posted the images on Twitter while Spain’s Guardia Civil police released footage of the diving stunt last night.

Gibraltar has accused the police of violating ‘British sovereignty’ by attempting to exercise jurisdiction in its territory. Gibraltar Governor Sir Adrian Johns said: ‘The act of diving itself constituted a serious violation of British sovereignty but this apparent interference with the reef is a new and worrying aspect.’

The police divers can be seen in the footage apparently measuring some of the 74 concrete blocks which were dropped into the sea by Gibraltar last month to make a man-made reef and encourage marine life.  Spain wants the reef removed, claiming it prevents Spanish fishermen from accessing the waters surrounding Gibraltar.  The Gibraltar government said in a statement: ‘Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar notes the incident of executive action taken by the guardia civil in British Gibraltar territorial waters in the area of the new artificial reef.

‘The matter of this serious incursion will not assist in de-escalating the present tensions.’ It comes as Gibraltar’s chief minister attempts to defuse the bitter dispute with Spain by promising to let its fishermen return to British waters.

Fabian Picardo is to propose a change in local law to let them resume fishing in parts of the sea near the Rock.

The law change allows them to ‘fish again according to their ancient practice’. It will be greeted as a victory by the 59 Spanish boats that want to use the waters.

They include one called Divina Providencia – Divine Providence in English – whose skipper Francisco Gomez has been involved in numerous confrontations with Royal Gibraltar Police vessels.–DM