British fishermen have been attacked by French boats in the Channel, raising fears of battles among rival boats over resources as quota limits bite and declining stocks make fishing ever more difficult.
The British fishermen were dredging for scallops in an area west of Le Havre, a lucrative fishing ground, when they were attacked with rocks thrown from nearby French boats, which attempted to block their path. They called for help from the British coastguard and Royal Navy, but were told that a French naval vessel would be sent. When it arrived, according to the men, the French authorities refused to intervene, angering the British fishermen and raising fears that a similar confrontation could happen again.
"We were like sitting ducks," said Kevin Loughran, skipper of the Vertrouwen, a 23-metre scallop dredger which was first to be attacked. "Someone could have been killed." Loughran says he was fishing about 24 kilometres west of Le Havre, an area within bounds for British fleets, which may not fish closer than 20 kilometres from the French coast, on Monday morning when his boat was surrounded by about eight or nine French vessels, which obstructed the Vertrouwen's path.
Loughran called other British fishing vessels in the area, and about six came to his aid. Shortly afterwards, the attackers were joined by other French boats, taking the number to about 40.