Stone-throwing, insults and dangerous maneuvers on the high seas: French and British fishers on Tuesday clashed in the English Channel over a hoard of scallops, the latest flare-up in a years-long war over the prized shellfish.
The British were heavily outnumbered at five boats to about 35 French vessels, according to maritime official Ingrid Parot, and were eventually chased from the scallop-rich waters of the Baie de Seine area of Normandy.
The skirmish took place more than 12 nautical miles (22km) out to sea where the British are legally allowed to fish all year round.
However, their French counterparts, restricted to fishing for scallops between Oct. 1 and May 15, have accused the British of depleting stocks and want them to face the same rules.
“The French went to contact the British to stop them from working and they clashed with each other. Apparently there was stone-throwing, but no injuries,” said Dimitri Rogoff, president of the regional Normandy fishing committee.
Rogoff said “about 40” French boats had gathered overnight in protest at British “pillaging” of the scallop supply.
Some of the boats rammed others — leaving holes in three vessels, footage from local channel France 3 Normandie showed — as the angry French fishermen threw smoke-bombs and hurled insults at British rivals.
“We are advising all parties to be calm as from the video clips, some vessels are maneuvering very dangerously,” Barrie Deas, chief executive of Britain’s National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, told reporters. “We have raised the matter with the British government and asked for protection for our vessels, which are fishing legitimately.”
“The deeper issues behind the clashes should be settled by talking around the table, not on the high seas where people could be hurt,” he added.
Tensions have been high between British and French fishers for about 15 years over the issue, leading to angry disputes that have been dubbed the “Scallop Wars.”
The two sides have reached annual agreements over the past five years, but the French blocked a deal this year, Rogoff said, adding that they had had enough.
“We don’t want to stop them from fishing, but they could at least wait until October 1 so that we can share,” he said.
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