French and British boats clash in 'scallop war'

French vessels confronted British boats early yesterday morning

French vessels confronted British boats early yesterday morning

Fishermen threw stones and vessels crashed into each other over 22 nautical kilometres out to sea off Calvados, France, where British fishermen are legally allowed to work year-round.

French fishing officials later accused the British of "pillaging" scallop supplies. With about five boats to 35 French vessels, they were ultimately chased away.

Tempers have flared between the two groups over claims United Kingdom vessels are "pillaging" the shellfish from worldwide waters.

French and British fishing crews skirmished in the English Channel on Tuesday, throwing stones and ramming each other's boats - the latest in a long-running row over scallop catches.

"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.

Dimitri Rogoff, head of a Normandy fishermen's association, said the violent scenes "demonstrate the exasperation of Normandy fishermen in a situation which persists and does not change".

"The French stand to lose fishing opportunities as a result of the UK's new status as an independent coastal state", he added.

"The French went out to meet the British to stop them working", Rogoff was quoted in The Telegraph as saying.

A French fisherman said that they were trying to fend off the British boats as "if we leave them to it, they will finish the sector".

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Tensions have been high between British and French fishermen for some 15 years over the issue.

British are allowed to strip the scallop beds most of the year, however, the French are not allowed to harvest between October 1 and May 15, in a drive to boost numbers. However, boats from the United Kingdom are free to take the lucrative shellfish from the seabed year-round, although according to The Telegraph "in previous years a gentleman's agreement has generally allowed both sides to harvest scallops fairly".

The so-called "scallop war" erupted 12 miles off the Normandy coast on Tuesday night.

The statement continued: "French fishermen resorting to intimidation and violence is hypocrisy in the extreme".

The dispute was nicknamed the "Guerre de la Coquille" when again British and French fishermen clashed this time off the coast of Le Havre, France. He said, while scallops should be protected over exploitation, there is "no crisis" over stocks.

The on-again, off-again conflict has been dubbed the "Scallop Wars".

The crews alleged they were surrounded and had rocks and metal shackles thrown at their boats.

Protests have seen Norman fishermen overturn trays of scallops in supermarkets and hurl fish in front of shoppers and they have even set fire to live lambs.

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