Scallop Wars: French navy put on alert for more clashes
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Scallop Wars: French navy put on alert for more clashes

London: French naval ships will "step in" if there are further clashes between scallop fishermen in the channel, a French minister has announced, amid fears the violence could escalate.

Stéphane Travert, France's agriculture minister, said fighting over scallop-rich fishing beds cannot be allowed to continue as the two sides prepare to meet on Wednesday to thrash out a solution.

French and British boats clash off France's northern coast.

French and British boats clash off France's northern coast.Credit:AP

French and British officials will meet with industry leaders in a bid to put an end to clashes which saw boats ramming into each other in a row over who should be allowed to fish for the expensive seafood.

Downing Street said there were no plans for the Navy to step up patrols in UK waters, but military sources said they stand ready to act if required.

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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.

The clashes have occurred in the 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.

The bow of the Honeybourne 3, a Scottish scallop dredger, in dock at Shoreham, south England, following clashes with French fishermen.

The bow of the Honeybourne 3, a Scottish scallop dredger, in dock at Shoreham, south England, following clashes with French fishermen.Credit:PA

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 Travert's comments were in line with Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary's position, that it was for the French to take any steps needed to prevent violence in the area. 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."

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

Sheryll Murray MP, whose fisherman husband died in an accident on a boat, welcomed the news that the French navy will intervene to prevent further clashes.

She told The Daily Telegraph: "They [the navy] should have been doing this in the beginning, they could have prevented the situation.

"The violence could have caused a very, very serious injury to someone."

Telegraph, London