Thursday 6 September 2018

British and French fishing fleets clash over access to Scallops on the Normandy Coast.

Clashes between British and French fishing vessels broke out last week after a group of French vessels tried to block the access of the British vessels to Scallop beds off the Normandy Coast. The French fishermen were aggrieved about British vessels targeting the Scallops outside of the fishing season, which is defined as lasting from 1 October to 15 May in France, in order to leave the Scallops unmolested during their breeding season, a convention not observed in Britain. The British vessels claim the right to access the Scallop beds as Britain is a member of the European Union, but not to be bound by French rules as the Scallops are landed in the UK.

British and French fishing vessels clash over access to Scallop beds off the Normandy Coast last week. Reuters.

In past years French fishing fleets have tolerated British Scallop trawlers in their waters out of season as long as only small vessels are involved. Smaller British fishing vessels are considered to be at a considerable disadvantage, as the UK gives the majority of its fishing quota (tightly defined in all EU countries to prevent over-fishing) to larger operators, and harvesting Scallops, which are not covered by the quota system, has been seen as a way for these smaller vessels to survive, something tolerated by the French as these vessels are thought to do little damage to Scallop stocks. However this year larger British ships have been visiting the Scallop beds, causing anger in French fishermen, who suspect that the owners of these vessels, which are likely to lose access to the area when Britain leaves the EU, are content do damage the Scallop beds in return for a quick profit.

A smaller French fishing vessel being knocked aside by a larger British ship during a dispute over access to Scallop beds off the Normandy Coast on 28 August 2018. France 3 Caen/Reuters.

After several days of clashes, and threats by the French authorities to deploy naval vessels to protect their fishing fleet, a tentative agreement has been reached between British and French politicians, with the British agreeing to withdraw their vessels as long as the French will pay compensation to the owners of these boats (it is unclear if this will actually happen). Meanwhile spokesmen for the French fishermen have made it clear that they do not blame the British trawlermen, with whom they have much in common, for the dispute, but rather British politicians for manipulating the situation.

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