French agriculture lawmaker Stephane Travert said Sept. 4, that he had spoken to his British counterpart and that there would be talks between the two sides on Sept. 5.
French fishermen surrounded British boats on Aug. 28 near the Bay of Seine off the coast of Normandy, throwing rocks and smoke bombs, and ramming British boats.
The French are angry that British fishermen are allowed to fish year-round, whereas, under French law, they can only catch scallops between Oct. 1 and May 15.
“We can’t keep going on like this; we can’t keep having skirmishes like that,” Travert said in an interview on CNews. “The French navy is ready to step in if more clashes break out, as well as carrying out checks.”
As Britain negotiates to leave the EU, the issue of fishing rights is likely to become increasingly sensitive.
Scallops are governed by national and not European Union rules. While British ships have no access to French territorial waters up to 12 nautical miles off the coast, it is legal for them to fish in the Bay of Seine, which stretches from Cherbourg to Dunkirk.
Agreements Have Broken Down
The row between the fishermen isn’t new. After it flared up five years ago, yearly agreements were brokered, in which the British agreed to limit its scallop dredging in the Bay of Seine in exchange for French scallop permits.
But some French fishermen said that the agreements have broken down in the last couple of years, possibly because of Brexit.
Last week, Dimitri Rogoff, the chairman of the French Regional Committee for Marine Fisheries, expressed frustration at the situation.
“For the Brits, it’s an open bar—they fish when they want, where they want, and as much as they want. We don’t want to stop them from fishing, but they could at least wait until Oct. 1, so that we can share.
“Scallops are a flagship product for Normandy, a primary resource, and a highly sensitive issue,” Rogoff told the BBC.
Meanwhile, Jim Portus, chairman of a British scallop industry consultation group, called on the Royal navy to protect the British boats.
“We should have had a Royal navy fisheries protection on standby, at least in the area, to intervene if it had got any worse,” he told Reuters.
“You know, there was a possibility of people getting injured, possibly even killed, because of the actions of the French fishermen—I’m not exaggerating with that,” Portus said.
Of the Sept. 5 meeting, Travert said he hopes that a solution would be found to calm the situation.
“I asked my counterpart, because I’m protecting my fishermen and the French fishing sector, to ensure that British fishermen do not cross the line from Barfleur to Antifer, i.e. the area where these clashes took place, while we wait for the necessary contacts to be made and meetings to take place to find a solution,” Travert told Europe 1 radio.