Government talking with French authorities in bid to prevent further 'scallop wars' in English Channel

Maritime agencies in France prepared to send more ships to keep peace between fishermen

Tom Barnes
Wednesday 29 August 2018 23:22
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French and British fishing boats clash in scallop war skirmish

The government says it is in talks with authorities in France to avoid a repeat of clashes seen in the Channel between British and French scallop fishermen.

Rocks, smoke bombs and other projectiles were reportedly hurled at English and Scottish boats during skirmishes on the water in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

After footage emerged showing a group of British scallop fishing boats being driven away by a larger French flotilla, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has vowed to take action.

“We are aware of reports of aggression directed towards UK fishing vessels in an area of the English Channel not under UK control,” the department said in a statement. “These vessels were operating in an area they are legally entitled to fish.

“The safety of the UK fleet is our highest priority, and we will continue to monitor the presence and activities of vessels in the area.

“We are in contact with industry and the French administration to encourage meaningful dialogue and prevent further incidents from occurring.”

Tensions have risen over scallop fishing in the Bay of Seine area as French boats are prevented from operating at certain times of the year due to attempts by their government to preserve shellfish numbers.

British boats, which face no such restrictions from UK authorities, are then seen to be “pillaging” stocks while their French counterparts are unable to fish.

The confrontation came to a head on Tuesday, when video broadcast by France 3 Normandie showed boats colliding as an object was thrown towards them.

Footage also showed what was believed to be a British-registered vessel colliding with a smaller craft.

French maritime official, Ingrid Parrot, told the BBC the situation had been “extremely tense” and both sides had launched projectiles at each other during the incident.

She added officials in France had only deployed once boat to attempt to diffuse the situation, but would be prepared to send a stronger presence if the confrontation reignited in future.

“The aim was to stop the tensions from increasing. We sent only one ship that day, but we will send more if it's necessary,” Ms Parrot said.

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