'Scallop wars' escalate as boats ram each other in Channel

Clashes took place on the edge of the Seine Bay between French fishermen, mainly from Normandy and their English counterparts

Clashes took place on the edge of the Seine Bay between French fishermen, mainly from Normandy and their English counterparts

Britain must take back of its waters after French fisherman attacked United Kingdom boats in a row over scallops, Tory Eurosceptics have told Michael Gove as they accused him of "weakness".

But Environment Secretary Michael Gove said United Kingdom boats were fishing legally. "We sent only one ship that day, but we will send more if it's necessary". Talks will now take place, but not before United Kingdom fishermen accused their French counterparts of "high seas piracy".

French and British trawlers in a previous confrontation in 2012.

The French accuse the British of depleting shellfish stocks in what were "historically French waters", according to the chairman of the French Regional Fisheries' Committee Dimitri Rogoff.

The British were chased away with two boats, Golden Promise and Joanna C, returning to Brixham harbour with damaged windows.

It showed some of the boats ramming others, leaving holes in three vessels.

Why has it all blown up now?

The French are irritated that British fishermen are allowed to harvest scallops, a key earner for France's Normandy region, throughout the year, while they are prevented from doing so during the summer.

The UK scallop industry is worth £120m and supports 1,350 jobs.

"Scallop fishery is regulated at national level and over the past years common management measures have been agreed between France, the United Kingdom and Ireland", the spokesman added.

How have the British responded?

"The deeper issues behind the clashes should be settled by talking around the table, not on the high seas where people could be hurt".

Rogoff expressed the fishermen's frustrations in his comments to the BBC.

The French had a "legal responsibility" to ensure their territorial waters were "appropriately policed" to allow legal fishing to continue, he added.

Responding to the row while visiting Nigeria, the Prime Minister said: "I think it's important we see an amicable solution to what has happened in the Channel. Our main United Kingdom counterpart has proposed we hold talks quickly in France, we'll receive a United Kingdom delegation in the coming days", Rogoff said on Wednesday.

The incident ended when the British boats, clearly outnumbered by the French, left the zone and the French returned to port.

The source of the problem is the regulations that the French scallop fishermen are subject to.

"Scallops are plentiful and they're expensive", he said.

But she questioned whether French authorities were "turning a blind eye" while their fishermen "took the law into their own hands".

Jimmy Buchan, celebrity fishing skipper and business manager for the Scottish Seafood Association, said the "militant" attack had placed lives at risk and demanded action be taken to allow the United Kingdom crews to return to the waters safely today.

How is it being reported in France?

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Recently, UK and French fishing bodies have also agreed limits for British vessels, but talks ended without a deal this year.

A flotilla of 35 French boats went out, by the admission of the Normandy Maritime Authority with the express aim of stopping the 5 British boats from working.

The issue is doubly sensitive given the uncertain future of arrangements for fishing in the area after Britain leaves the European Union in March 2019, particularly if Britain crashes out without a withdrawal deal. "Scallops are a flagship product for Normandy, a primary resource and a highly sensitive issue", said Rogoff.

The bow of the Honeybourne 3, a Scottish scallop dredger, in dock at Shoreham, south England, following clashes with French fishermen in the early hours of Tuesday morning off France's northern coast.

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