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Home / Sporting Events / Fishing / Scallop wars: French fishermen ‘hurl rocks and smoke bombs’ at British fishing boats in English Channel skirmish

Scallop wars: French fishermen ‘hurl rocks and smoke bombs’ at British fishing boats in English Channel skirmish

French and British fisherman have clashed in the English Channel in a so-called scallop war over fishing rights.

The French, who operate a restriction fishing season for harvesting the shellfish to preserve their numbers, have complained their rivals are “pillaging” the supply of the shellfish.

Rocks, smoke bombs and other projectiles were reportedly hurled at English and Scottish vessels during the confrontation in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

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British boats are permitted to fish in the Bay of Seine area, off the Normandy coast, but were driven away by a numerically superior French flotilla, the BBC reported. 

Dramatic footage of the incident broadcast by France 3 Normandie showed boats colliding as an object was thrown toward them. Video also appears to show one of the British boats, believed to be the Honeybourne III, colliding with a smaller vessel.

The owners of Honeybourne III, hull number PD905, have twice been fined by the UK’s Marine Management Organisation for plundering under-sized scallops with the penalties running into the tens of thousands of pounds, government records showed.

Some of the British vessels are said to have later returned to UK harbours with signs of “criminal” damage following Tuesday’s skirmish.

The long-running dispute is over a scallop-rich area of the Channel that French fishermen are prevented from harvesting due to domestic environmental laws.

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”.

“I urge everyone to avoid these situations that endanger men’s lives,” he 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,” he told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

The Scottish White Fish Producers Association condemned the “vigilante” French fishermen.

“Attacking our vessels is appalling,” the group said.

Britain’s National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations has appealed for calm, saying the dispute should be resolved through negotiations.

“We have raised the matter with the British government and asked for protection for our vessels, which are fishing legitimately,” its chief executive, Barrie Deas, told the BBC.

“The deeper issues behind the clashes should be settled by talking around the table, not on the high seas where people could be hurt.”

Additional reporting by PA

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