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Food and agriculture

British, French hostilities laid to rest in simmering ‘scallop wars’ after compensation agreed

In a series of confrontations last week, French fishermen threw smoke bombs and hurled insults at British boats, which were heavily outnumbered

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 September, 2018, 4:47pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 September, 2018, 4:47pm

“Scallop wars”, the conflict between Cornish fishermen and their French counterparts, appears to have been brought to a peaceful conclusion, after the French government agreed to compensate British boats for staying out of the Baie de Seine.

A joint statement released by the UK and French governments on Wednesday said “constructive” talks involving representatives of their respective fishing industries had resulted in a deal.

Conservation measures aimed at restoring scallop stocks in the 64km stretch of waters off the Normandy coast will now be extended to British boats under 15-metres long, which were initially excluded.

In return, the French government will compensate the British boats, with details to be hammered out at further talks on Friday.

“There is agreement in principle for UK under-15-metre vessels to be included in the deal. This is subject to a reasonable compensation package, the details of which will be defined in Paris on Friday,” the statement said. “In the meantime, there is a voluntary agreement for all UK vessels to respect the French closure period in the Baie de Seine.”

In a series of confrontations last week, French fishermen threw smoke bombs and hurled insults at British boats, which were heavily outnumbered. The government later raised the issue with Paris, urging the French government to police the waters more effectively.

The environment secretary, Michael Gove, said last week his “heart went out” to those caught up in the clashes, and insisted, “these are French waters – it’s the responsibility of the French to ensure that those who have a legal right to fish can continue to fish uninterrupted”.

Britain even raised the issue formally with the French government. However, the British government has now accepted that the boats in question will stay at home – though Whitehall sources stressed the involvement of the fishing industry in striking the deal.

Hardline Brexiters seized on the confrontation last week to claim that it underlined the urgency of the government taking back control of its waters after next March, instead of waiting until after the transition period.

The former environment secretary Owen Paterson wrote in The Sun: “Had the French, through the EU, not appropriated a 90 per cent share of ­Channel fish stocks, our fishermen would not have resorted to targeting scallops. It is the British fishermen that should be protesting against the French – not the other way around.”