Fishermen to seek scallops agreement deal after UK/France sea skirmishes

Fishing industry officials from France and UK are trying this week to strike a new deal on dredging for scallops, following violent skirmishes in the English Channel last week.

On Tuesday August 28th French vessels rammed British trawlers off the coast of Normandy, hurling projectiles and insults. The French fishermen have accused the British of catching scallops in the Baie de Seine in the summer months when French boats are banned from so doing under rules imposed by the French government to conserve stocks of the shellfish. The British ships are under no such legal restriction and claimed they were acting within the law.

French Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert said that he had discussed the issue with UK fisheries minister George Eustace last Thursday night August 30th and that the industry representatives would meet next week to work out an agreement.

“We both condemn the violent acts and we want to return to a spirit of responsibility,” Travert said.

Travert said he had Eustace to ensure that UK vessels do not sail south of the Barfleur-Antifer line, the scene of this week’s clashes.

The industry representatives would meet in London on Wednesday and French government officials would also attend, said Dimitri Rogoff, who heads the Normandy fishing association.

UK ships have no access to French territorial waters up to 12nm off the coast, but they can legally operate in the expansive Baie de Seine between Cherbourg and Le Havre.  France bans its fishermen from scallop dredging between May 15th and October 1st. The UK allows its vessels to operate year-round.

In 2012 French and British fishing organizations negotiated an agreement each summer under which UK fleets would not start scallop dredging in the Baie de Seine before the French, in exchange for part of the French fishermen’s dredging permits. But small UK vessels were excluded from that agreement. The French say the UK has undermined the spirit of the deal by sending more and more small vessels. The French have not signed any agreement this year.

Rogoff said that, ahead of Brexit, British fishermen had increased scallop trawling, and risked wiping out the seafood during their breeding season.

Meanwhile, Travert said in a TV interview on Tuesday that the French Navy was ready to intervene if clashes flared up again. A spokesman for prime minister Theresa May said that “the important thing is that there are talks taking place between the two sides”.