French navy ready to intervene over scallops clashes

French and English fishing fleets clash in the English Channel PICTURE: BBC
Andrew Woodcock

THE French navy is ready to intervene to prevent further clashes between fishermen harvesting scallops in the English Channel, the country's agriculture minister has said.

Stephane Travert was speaking ahead of talks in London on Wednesday designed to resolve tensions between French and British fishermen.

About 35 French boats confronted five British craft off the coast of northern France last week, with UK crews reporting that rocks, smoke bombs and other projectiles were hurled at them during the confrontation.

The clashes have occurred in a scallop-rich area known as the Baie de Somme, off the coast of Normandy.

National regulations allow British ships to fish legally in the area all year round, but French fishermen are banned from taking the molluscs between May 15 and October 1 to conserve stocks.

Mr Travert told French broadcaster CNews: "We can't keep going on like this, we can't keep having skirmishes like that.

"The French navy is ready to step in if more clashes break out, as well as carrying out checks."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said Mr Travert's comments were in line with Environment Secretary Michael Gove's position that it was for the French to take any steps needed to prevent violence in the area.

Mr Gove said last week: "These are French waters - it's the responsibility of the French to ensure that those who have a legal right to fish can continue to fish uninterrupted."

Downing Street said both sides were hoping for an "amicable" solution from talks between officials and industry representatives.

Asked about Mr Travert's comments, Prime Minister Theresa May's official spokesman said: "The important thing is that there are talks taking place between the two sides.

"I think everybody - ourselves and the French government - is hoping that this will reach an amicable outcome."

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