French and British fishing boats clash in scallop war skirmish

French Navy 'ready to intervene' in clashes with UK scallop fishermen

Minister says armed forces could step in to cool tensions between trawlers in English Channel

Tom Barnes@thomas_barnes
Wednesday 05 September 2018 00:13

The French navy would intervene to prevent further clashes between fishermen fighting over scallop harvests in the English Channel, a government minister says.

Speaking ahead of talks in London this week, France’s agriculture minister Stephane Travert said the move would be considered in a bid to soothe tensions between British and French fishermen.

A flotilla of around 35 French boats confronted five vessels from England and Scotland in the Bay of Seine last week, with UK crews claiming they were pelted with rocks and smoke bombs.

“We can't keep going on like this, we can't keep having skirmishes like that,” Mr Travert told French broadcaster CNews.

“The French navy is ready to step in if more clashes break out, as well as carrying out checks.”

Conflict has risen over scallop fishing in the area as French boats are prevented from operating between May and October due to attempts by their government to preserve shellfish numbers.

However, their British counterparts are under no obligation from UK authorities to do the same and are considered to be “pillaging” stocks by French fishermen.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said Mr Travert's comments were in line with environment secretary Michael Gove's view it was for France to prevent violence escalating further.

Mr Gove said last week: “These are French waters - it's the responsibility of the French to ensure that those who have a legal right to fish can continue to fish uninterrupted.”

Downing Street said both sides were hoping for an “amicable” solution from talks between officials and industry representatives.

Asked about Mr Travert's comments, Prime Minister Theresa May's official spokesman said: “The important thing is that there are talks taking place between the two sides.

“I think everybody - ourselves and the French government - is hoping that this will reach an amicable outcome.”

Additional reporting by PA

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