French fishermen were accused of throwing rocks and smoke bombs at five UK fishing vessels as part of an escalating row over scallop fishing.
The clash happened around 12nm off the Normandy coast, near the Bay of Seine. UK boats are legally entitled to fish in the area, but French fishermen accuse the British of depleting shellfish stocks.
The UK fishermen are now demanding government protection
About 40 French boats gathered overnight on Monday with the intention of stopping the UK boats from fishing, according to Normandy fishing chief Dimitri Rogoff, noting that “apparently there was stone-throwing, but no injuries.”
“For the Brits, it’s an open bar – they fish when they want, where they want, and as much as they want,” Mr Rogoff said.
UK boats can gather scallops year-round, but French law restricts the scallop fishing season to between October 1st and May 15th.
Some boats were damaged in the skirmish, with three suffering holes, TV footage showed. The UK crews claimed that they were surrounded and had rocks and metal shackles thrown at their boats.
A video published by French media appears to show Scottish scallop dredger Honeybourne III (IMO 8211796) colliding with nearby vessels.
The British couldn’t match the local armada for numbers. With about five boats to 35 French vessels, they were ultimately chased away.
Two British boats, 19mx5m Golden Promise (MMSI 234829000) and 10mx4m Joanna C (MMSI 235005283), returned to Brixham harbour with damaged windows.
Rogoff said that France did not want to stop the British from fishing, but they wanted a level playing field on when they were allowed so to do. “Scallops are a flagship product for Normandy, a primary resource and a highly sensitive issue”, said Rogoff.
Mike Park, chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association, called the clashing incident as “clear piracy”, and said that the Scottish boat, was “fully entitled to be there. UK vessels can enter that French zone, it’s not illegal. The Peterhead vessel is going about its business. The French vessels are probably attacking it.”
The UK National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations appealed for calm, noting that some boats had been filmed manoeuvring dangerously.
Also citing the law as it currently stands, CEO Barrie Deas said that “we have raised the matter with the British government and asked for protection for our vessels, which are fishing legitimately”, adding that “the deeper issues behind the clashes should be settled by talking around the table, not on the high seas where people could be hurt.”
1983-built, UK-flagged, 215 gt Honeybourne III is owned and managed by Macduff Shellfish Scotland Ltd of Peterhead, UK. It is entered with Shipowners’ P&I Club on behalf of Macduff Shellfish Scotland Ltd.