French and British fishermen agreed Monday to end their battle over access to scallop-rich waters in the English Channel, three weeks after the long-simmering conflict flared into a high-seas confrontation. The new deal is hoped to bring to a close the years-long “Scallop Wars” over fishing the prized mollusks in the fertile waters off the Baie de Seine area of Normandy in northwest France.
Tensions boiled over late last month when dozens of French boats confronted a handful of British rivals in the waters to keep them from the area, with a few vessels ramming others as angry French fishermen threw stones and smoke-bombs.
”We managed to get an agreement. Tonight at midnight, they (the British fishermen) will leave the area in the Channel's east and will only return on Nov 1, French industry representative Pascal Coquet said.
French fishermen have been incensed that British scallop boats can access the area, while French boats are only allowed to fish there between October to May in order to protect stocks.
The French side had hoped to end a loophole that exempts British boats smaller than 15 meters long, giving them first dibs at one of the main scallop sources off the French coast before the official season.
However, it failed to get the smaller British boats banned.
We were forced to drop the 15-meter requirement, Coquet said, because time was running out as British boats were ravaging the fishing stocks.
It is in order to avoid catastrophe. They fish everything and there are other altercations, Coquet said, adding that he is satisfied with the compromise even it came a little late.
The French side also agreed to give the British fishermen an additional fishing quota, he said.
Jim Portus, the chief executive of Britain's South Western Fish Producers Organization, agreed it was a compromise. He added that It's not the best deal ... but it's better than no deal.
Britain's Fisheries Minister George Eustice commended the UK fishing industry for its patience throughout negotiations and welcome this pragmatic outcome”.