British fishermen are calling for Royal Navy protection after their vessels were attacked by French boats as they were out catching scallops in the English Channel.
A fleet of around 35 French boats surrounded just five British vessels overnight, launching missiles including rocks and flares and ramming the smaller group, shocking footage shows.
The French are legally not allowed to fish for scallops in the summer.
Last year, the British were restricted, too, thanks to a deal with the French, which was not stuck again this year — allowing the British to catch scallops early and angering the French.
“We estimate that there were 35 French boats and five British boats,” the regional French maritime authority in Normandy told AFP.
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“The French went out to meet the British to stop them working,” said Dimitri Rogoff, president of the regional Normandy fishing committee.
“They clashed. Stones were thrown. The French almost completely surrounded the British” who then left the area, he said, adding that there were no injuries or damage.
He also claimed: “About forty boats from Port-en-Bessin, Courseulles, Ouistreham, Trouville, Honfleur, and Le Havre, in particular, had sailed in the night to denounce the British fishermen who plunder the scallop deposit.”
The British boats were legally catching fish in international waters when they were attacked and British fisherman Jim Portus accused the French of being “precious” and hypocritical.
He pointed out that French boats had been allowed within 12 miles of the UK since the 1960s, while the British are not allowed that close to France.
“That’s the irony of this,” he told talkRADIO. “And they want that to continue after Brexit.”
“They don’t have right on their side, even if they do have rocks,” he added, before calling for the Royal Navy’s Fishery Protection Squadron to step in.
The group Fishing For Leave said in a statement: “The break down in talks to reach an agreement on joint English channel management is regrettable for French fishermen, British fishermen, and the humble scallops.
“However, French fishermen resorting to intimidation and violence is hypocrisy in the extreme.
“For 40 years we have had to endure French and other EU fishermen catching 60 percent of the fish in British waters, insultingly much taken just off the coasts of Cornwall.”
In March of this year, the defence secretary Gavin Williamson said the navy was preparing to support the monitoring and protection of UK fisheries after Brexit.
“The Royal Navy has a proud tradition of protecting the UK’s coastline and keeping a close eye on our fishing waters”, he commented, as well as announcing new River-Class Offshore Patrol Vessels.
He added: “With these state-of-the-art, vastly capable ships we stand ready to protect our fisheries once Britain leaves the EU.”