UK:There were fresh hopes of an end to the conflict between Cornish fishermen and their French counterparts, dubbed the “scallop wars”, on Monday night after it was announced that the two sides had come to a new agreement.
Vessels from the two nations clashed over the summer in a dispute about access to fishing grounds in the Baie de Seine, north of Normandy. The French and British governments announced that a deal had been reached in early September, but those hopes were dashed last Thursday when talks broke down.
Now it has been announced that another agreement has been reached. Under its terms, UK vessels of less than 15 metres would continue to be able to take scallops from the waters, but larger boats would cease activities in the Baie de Seine from Tuesday until the end of 30 October.
National regulations allow British ships to fish legally in the area all year round, but French fishermen have been banned from taking scallops in the Baie de Seine between 15 May and 31 October at the latest to conserve stocks. A previous industry accord prevented UK vessels larger than 15 metres from doing so, but smaller ones could help themselves.
When that deal broke down, tempers flared as French boats clashed with their British counterparts. About 35 French vessels confronted five British craft off the coast of northern France, with reports of rocks and smoke bombs being hurled at UK boats.
The UK’s fisheries minister, George Eustice, welcomed the deal. “This means our over-15-metre fleet will get the days at sea it wanted, while allowing the under-15-metre fleet to continue fishing in the area. I commend the UK fishing industry for its patience throughout negotiations and welcome this pragmatic outcome.”
Jim Portus, chief executive of the South Western Fish Producers Organisation, said: “Industry members were not entirely ecstatic about the French holding them to ransom since failing to sign the accord in July, but I think this is a better outcome than we faced at the end of last week.”
On 5 September, the governments of the UK and France released a joint statement saying “constructive” talks had resulted in a deal under which the smaller British vessels would be covered by the conservation measures. The French government agreed to compensate British boats.
But on 13 September, it was announced that the talks had broken down, with reports suggesting the amount of compensation required to end the standoff was too great.