British and French scallop fishers clashed in the English Channel. (Photo: Stock File/FIS)
French and British dispute over scallop fishing
Friday, October 12, 2012, 01:40 (GMT + 9)
The French Navy was called to intervene in a scallop fishing dispute after French boats surrounded British trawlers in the English Channel and reportedly pelted them with rocks.
Some 40 French boats surrounded five British vessels in the Baie de Seine, 20 mi off the coast of Le Havre, Normandy.
British crew members claimed that some of the boats tried to slam into them and that objects such as rocks and nets were thrown to try to damage the propellers and engines of the British boats. Witnesses say flares were also set off by at least one French vessel, BBC reports.
At first, the French authorities refused to intervene, according to the British crew. But once the French Navy got involved and a meeting took place between the French and the British, the quarrel was finally diffused.
"As soon as we were made aware of the situation, we contacted the French authorities and encouraged them to intervene,” said a spokesperson for the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), which manages the UK fishing fleet, Sky News reports.
While French fishers are allowed to fish for scallops during a five-month period ending on 1 October, British trawlers are allowed to fish year-round.
The clash that took place this week happened on the French side of the English Channel, even though an international agreement allows British fishers to access French waters. Still, British vessels are allowed only 36 days of fishing in the best scallop grounds, including the Channel.
"As soon as we were made aware of the situation we contacted the French authorities and encouraged them to intervene. They did and are continuing to deal with this matter. We believe issues should be dealt with by the country in whose waters any such incident occurs. We are continuing high-level negotiations with our French counterparts to seek assurances that these issues will not recur," the MMO added.
The British fishers are planning to fish at the same scallop beds again this week and are requesting a UK fisheries protection vessel to be there as a neutral observer.
According to the MMO, British fishers landed 157,000 tonnes of shellfish, including scallops, worth GBP 290 million (EUR 360.4 million) last year.
As a whole, 83 UK vessels measuring at least 15 m in length spent almost 10,000 days at sea fishing for scallops in the area where the row occurred.
"The French authorities are continuing to monitor the situation, which we now believe has been resolved," said a spokesperson for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is responsible for ensuring safety at sea.
By Natalia Real