EU points finger at Canada in fish war fish finger war

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The Independent Online

in Brussels

Shots have been fired, warships dispatched and tensions are rising. A conflict is being threatened between the EU and Canada over fish fingers.

Canadian gunboats fired shots across the bows of a Spanish trawler on Thursday and seized it, to protest against over-fishing by EU vessels. "Canada has no other choice but to take action at sea to put a stop to this practice," Andre Ouellet, Canada's foreign minister, said.

In Brussels, the 15 EU ambassadors went into emergency session and threatened retaliatory measures if the trawler, the Estai, was not returned. The ambassadors called the seizure "illegal and totally unacceptable", and called in the Canadian ambassador. "This is an act of premeditated aggression that goes against international law," Spain's Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Luis Atienza, said. "This amounts to boarding, kidnapping, an act of piracy." A patrol boat was ready to sail from Cadiz as soon as a EU inspector arrived to accompany it. It will take four or five days to reach the fishing grounds. Canada already has a destroyer and several smaller vessels in the area, the Grand Banks, in the North-west Atlantic, off Newfoundland. Canada is woried about the reduction in fish stocks and the collapse of the local fishing industry. It is particularly concerned about Greenland Halibut. This fish is usually used for processed products such as fish fingers.

The incident happened on the high seas, not in Canadian waters. Canada has passed a law that it believes allows it to seize ships in international waters if they are over-fishing. Other states, including those in the EU, dispute this.

Why Canada is angry, page 10