Thu, Sep 06, 2018 - Page 7 News List

British, French fishing representatives to meet to avert fresh ‘Scallop Wars’ clashes

AFP, LONDON

British and French fishing groups were yesterday to hold talks to avert new clashes between their vessels, after tensions flared last week in scallop-rich waters near Normandy and as Brexit looms on the horizon.

Scallop industry leaders were to discuss access to stocks of the pricey delicacy in Seine Bay at the London meeting, which was facilitated and to be attended by government officials from both sides.

“We’re going to have to work on this, because this situation cannot continue,” French Minister of Agriculture Stephane Travert told CNews on Tuesday.

“We can’t have clashes like this,” he said, calling for the “sustainable and efficient management of scallop stocks.”

Tensions boiled over on Tuesday last week, when five British vessels sparred with dozens of French boats in the sensitive area, with video footage showing fishermen ramming each other.

The latest skirmish in the long-running so-called “Scallop Wars” has led to France placing its navy on standby to deal with any further confrontations.

It comes as Britain prepares to leave the EU — and its common fisheries policy, which sets catch quotas and other restrictions for member states — in March next year.

With British fishermen heavy backers of Brexit, “we must recognize that tensions are reviving,” said Travert, who warned that the industry should not be used as a bargaining chip between London and Brussels.

“We want a global accord and do not want to see fishing treated separately, because fishing should not be a variable for adjusting Brexit,” he said.

Last week’s clashes at about 12 nautical miles (22.2km) off the French coast were the most serious in years of wrangling over the area’s scallops.

French fishermen have been incensed that British boats are accessing the fertile waters, while their government limits fishing there to between October and May to allow stocks to replenish.

Earlier deals exempted British boats less than 15m long from the restrictions, a loophole French fishermen want to see closed and which led to a deadlock in reaching an agreement earlier this year.

“It has always been planned with the English that we manage the scallops together, but there’s been an increase in their fishing,” Normandy fishing committee head Dimitri Rogoff said.

British government statistics showed a marked drop in the past few years in overall scallop hauls by British vessels, from 58,100 tonnes in 2012 to 38,900 tonnes in 2016.

However, Rogoff said that Seine Bay was an “essential” area for the French that must be protected.

“We will not move an iota,” he told reporters on Tuesday, predicting his negotiating entourage would be “intransigent” in the talks. “All of the [British] flotilla must be bound by the agreements.”

“I offer them peace: We share together and there are no more dramas,” Rogoff said.

His British counterpart, Scottish White Fish Producers Association chief executive Mike Park, was equally bullish.

“We hope to strike a deal, but that would be down to the French, because they have rejected the terms we’ve had in previous years,” he said.

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