French navy ‘ready to intervene’ following scallop skirmishes in English Channel
Battle between French and British over shellfish has seen fishermen ramming each other’s boats
France said on Tuesday its navy is standing by to avert new clashes between French and British fishing boats after tensions flared last week over access to scallop-rich waters off the Normandy coast.
Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert told CNews television the navy was “ready to intervene in case of clashes” after fishermen hurled stones and insults in the latest episode of a long-running “Scallops War”.
A patrol boat based in nearby Cherbourg is watching the area as part of a routine mission “to ensure the safety of people and ships at sea”, said Captain Bertrand Dumoulin.
Travert said he could not speak for the British navy, which reportedly sent ships to the area.
At stake is access to rich stocks of the pricey delicacy in waters near the mouth of the Seine River, with French boats allowed to fish there only between October and May to protect stocks.
But a deal struck years ago exempts British boats less than 15 metres (50 feet) long from the restrictions, a loophole French fishermen want to see closed when representatives of the two sides meet for talks on Wednesday.
Tensions boiled over last Tuesday when five British boats sparred with dozens of French vessels around 12 nautical miles off the French coast.
Some of the fishermen from both sides also rammed each other, video footage showed.
“We’re going to have to work on this, because this situation cannot continue, we can’t have clashes like this,” Travert said, saying a new deal was needed to ensure “a sustainable and efficient management of scallop stocks”.
But he also claimed most British fishermen were also “Brexiteers” who should not expect a separate deal with France as the UK prepares to leave the European Union in March next year.
“We want a global accord, and do not want to see fishing treated separately, because fishing should not be a variable for adjusting Brexit,” he said.