Captain of British boat seized by France in fishing row summoned to court

Boat still sat in harbour two days after it was detained

Zoe Tidman
Friday 29 October 2021 11:11
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The captain of a British boat detained in a French port has been summoned to court.

The scallop vessel, owned by Scottish firm Macduff Shellfish, has been thrown into the centre of a post-Brexit fishing row between France and England.

The Cornelis boat is being kept in the French port city of Le Havre after it was detained earlier this week for allegedly not having a licence to fish in French waters.

Macduff Shellfish has insisted their activity was legal.

Cyrille Fournier, who represents the prosecutor’s office for Le Havre, said the captain of has now been asked to appear in court next August.

He said the boat was not authorised to fish in those parts of French waters.

The captain risks a fine of €75,000, French media reported.

Mr Fournier said: “The captain of the ship Cornelis Gert Jan has been summoned by Maritime Gendarmerie to appear at the criminal court of Le Havre on August 11, 2022, to be judged on unauthorised sea fishing in French waters by a third party vessel to the European Union.

“Indeed, after verification, the captain of the vessel did not have the authorisation required to fish in the French exclusive economic zone.”

The boat was still sat in the harbour in Le Havre, a major port city in Normandy, on Friday - two days after it was detained.

The captain risks a fine of €75,000, French media reported

There was little activity on board in the morning, with the crew drawing up a curtain to stay out of sight.

Macduff Shellfish said on Thursday the crew remained "in good spirits" and would remain on board until the boat is released.

Mr Eustice earlier told MPs the vessel had been granted a licence by the EU but that there were reports that it subsequently had been removed from the list of vessels permitted to fish in French waters for reasons that were unclear.

It comes as the UK warned France “two can play at that game” if Paris goes ahead with “inflammatory” threats made over sanctions.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will challenge Paris’s ambassador to the UK Catherine Colonna on France’s intentions on late on Friday afternoon after taking the rare step of ordering an allied nation’s envoy to be summoned.

French ministers have warned they will block British boats from some French ports and tighten checks on vessels travelling between France and the UK if the issue is not resolved by Tuesday – as well as threatening the electricity supply to the Channel Islands.

Environment Secretary George Eustice did not rule out blocking French vessels in return as he struck out at a claim from France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune that the only language Britain understands is “the language of force”.

Mr Eustice told BBC Breakfast: “That is completely inflammatory and is the wrong way to go about things.”

Asked how the UK will respond if France does go ahead and block British trawlers, the Cabinet minister said: “Two can play at that game.”

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