Guernsey truce fails to hold water: Britain warns there will be no compromise in Anglo-French fish war

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S fish war with France remained volatile yesterday as a truce agreed by fishermen in Normandy and Guernsey was undermined from all sides.

David Curry, British Fisheries Minister, said there was no possiblity of compromise with France and warned that the Royal Navy would be used as necessary. John Major said the Government was pressing the new French administration to bring militant fishermen 'to book' and to enforce EC law on its fishermen 'guaranteeing unfettered access'.

French fishermen took their dispute over fishing rights off Guernsey and Alderney to Paris yesterday, seeking support from the government for their demands for access to waters around the islands. They claim the Anglo-French treaty signed last year gave them rights to trawl the disputed waters, something they have done since the first such treaty over the island's fishing rights, signed in 1839.

Marie-Claire San Quirce, French Consul to the Channel Islands, said the British had misinterpreted the terms of the latest treaty.

Since last week, English and Channel Island fishing boats have been prevented from landing catches at Cherbourg in protest at the Royal Navy stopping French boats fishing near the Schole Bank, off the Channel Islands.

On Monday night French and Guernsey fishermen agreed a four-week cooling-off period in which the French could fish in a disputed area off Alderney, in return for Guernsey catches being once again allowed to land in France.

Stakes are high because the period up to Easter often sees the year's best prices for the shellfish on which the dispute centres, providing financial relief to struggling fleets on both sides of the Channel.

The Ministry of Agriculture condemned the Guernsey agreement, saying fishery protection vessels would resume controlling the area once French fishermen had had a 'reasonable time' to retrieve equipment.