French and English fishing boats have clashed in a violent skirmish off the coast of Normandy, amid rising tensions over a row about the fishing of scallops.
Around 35 French fishing boats appeared to surround five UK vessels in a stand-off early on Tuesday morning, with rocks and flares thrown, says Sky News.
One boat is believed to have crashed into another, and some of the British vessels reportedly returned to UK harbours with signs of “criminal” damage.
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The altercation took place in Baie de Seine, a region of the English Channel where British boats are allowed to fish most of the year. However, France has imposed rules that mean its own fisherman are only able to fish there between October and mid-May, to allow scallops to breed and thereby preserve stocks.
French fisherman in the region have accused their British counterparts of depleting fish stocks during the summer months, and have called for UK fisherman to be subject to the same laws.
ITV News reports that one French fisherman said if they “leave them [the British] to it, they will finish the sector”. Another added: “We have quotas, we have hours. They have nothing.
“They start working a month before us. And, they leave us the crumbs. What we want, is that they come and scrape at the same time as us. In October, like everyone. And, that way there will be no problems.”
Normandy fishing chief Dimitri Rogoff said: “The French went to contact the British to stop them working and they clashed with each other. Apparently, there was stone-throwing but no injuries.”
British and French fishermen have been arguing about the issue for the past 15 years, leading to angry disputes that have been dubbed “scallop wars”, The Guardian reports.
According to Rogoff, the row would be resolved, albeit inadvertently, in the event of a no-deal Brexit - which would see UK fishermen entirely prohibited from the waters. He added: “After 29 March 2019, they would be treated as a third party and would no longer have access to these areas.”
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