French, British ships clash over English Channel scallop fishing

French and British fishing boats clashed over scallop fishing practices in the English Channel with fishermen on both sides throwing projectiles at each other, maritime officials said.

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Video from the conflict showed vessels ramming into each other while stones and other projectiles were thrown as about 40 French boats tried to stop five larger British boats from fishing in the Bay of Seine, 12 nautical miles off the coast of Normandy, the BBC reported.
“Things were thrown on both sides — from the English and from the French. Both parties were extremely tense,” French maritime official Ingrid Parrot said.

British fisherman Ciaran Cardell told The Washington Post that smoke and smells of gunpowder and sulfur filled the air as the French fired rocket flares and gasoline bombs.

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“There were boats on fire, one of their boats got sunk. That’s the closest I’ve ever been to being at war. It was like a battle on the high seas. It was crazy,” he said.

No one was injured in the clash that was part of an ongoing conflict known as the “scallop wars.”

The clash stemmed from a conflict regarding French protests over British ships overfishing Normandy scallops known as “coquille Saint-Jacques,” the Financial Times reported.

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Environmental laws to maximize scallop breeding allow French fisherman to harvest the mollusks from Oct. 1 to May 15 within a 12-nautical-mile exclusion zone off the coast of Normandy.

British fisherman aren’t bound by the same rules, but for many years had agreed not to fish in the area until the French are permitted to as well.

“For the Brits, it’s an open bar — they fish when they want, where they want, and as much as they want,” Dimitri Rogoff, head of the Normandy fishing committee told the BBC. “We don’t want to stop them from fishing, but they could at least wait until Oct. 1 so that we can share.”

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The British government said its fisherman were “operating in an area they are legally entitled to fish” while Barrie Deas, chief executive of Britain’s National Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations, said the actions of the French fisherman were dangerous.

“It’s alarming because of the French tactics and potential danger for the crews of the boats involved — both on our boats and the French boats,” Deas said. “We have disputes from time to time. The proper place to resolve them is around the table.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she hoped for an “amicable solution” to the dispute between the two sides.

“It’s what we want and it’s what France wants and we will be working on that,” May said.