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Fish wars could reignite following Brexit, say fishermen

The confrontation over access to scallops in the Baie de Seine remains unresolved.

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The confrontation over access to scallops in the Baie de Seine remains unresolved (PA)

The confrontation over access to scallops in the Baie de Seine remains unresolved (PA)

The confrontation over access to scallops in the Baie de Seine remains unresolved (PA)

Fish wars could reignite following Brexit, fishermen have said as they lobby for a good deal after the UK leaves the EU.

Skirmishes saw rocks and smoke bombs launched by more than 30 French vessels towards five British boats off the coast of Normandy in August.

The confrontation over access to scallops in the Baie de Seine remains unresolved – and fishermen holding a lobbying event at Parliament said they expected the fights to continue.

Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), said he did not expect the French fishermen’s attitude to change.

Mackerel wars, cod wars - we have had them in the past and I'm quite content we will have them in the future. Jim Portus, South Western Fish Producers Organisation

He said: “Normandy has always demonstrated that kind of militant behaviour, so you couldn’t discount that.

“On the other hand, there are other countries, including the Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland, who we are talking to all the time.”

South Western Fish Producers Organisation chief executive Jim Portus, who was involved in the Normandy negotiations, said the disagreement was about “market protection” and that would not change.

Mr Portus said he had seen plenty of flare-ups over fishing quotas during his 30 years in the industry and expected “altercations” and “friction” over fishing rights to continue after Brexit.

“What I’m confident about post-Brexit is we will still have these issues going on,” he said.

“Mackerel wars, cod wars – we have had them in the past and I’m quite content we will have them in the future.

“All the issues are not going to be resolved by Brexit, but neither are we going to descend into anarchy post-Brexit.”

Mr Portus said the solution was to resolve issues “fisherman to fisherman” instead of involving governments or the European Commission.

He said he was currently helping to set up a group bringing scallop fishermen round the table, in the same way that shellfish interests had been brought together in the Mid Channel Potting Conference for the last 40 years.

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Some british boats were damaged in the skirmishes off the coast of Normandy in August (PA)

Some british boats were damaged in the skirmishes off the coast of Normandy in August (PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

Some british boats were damaged in the skirmishes off the coast of Normandy in August (PA)

Mr Portus said: “It’s far better to have these talking shops and try to come to some accord, because scallops are such a valuable commodity.”

Conservative MP David Duguid (Banff and Buchan) said the fight was “extremely serious” and caused partly by “potentially criminal actions” but partly by EU law.

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 Duguid said: “One side of the argument were out there on the high seas attacking other fishing crews who had a legitimate right to be there.

“This is what’s difficult about the CFP – the Scottish rules only apply to Scotland, which means the French or the Danish can do what they want.

“It would make a lot more sense if each independent coastal state had its own rules and everyone fishing in their waters had to apply those rules – it would avoid the conflict between different rules.”

PA