Progress to end scallop wars

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 6 September 2018

An agreement on the principles to end the so-called ‘scallop war’ skirmishes in the English Channel has been struck.

Scallop fishing boats collide
© France 3 Normandie

Scallop dredging can have significant impacts on the seabed and we are therefore hugely supportive of the conservation measures to protect the stock being widened out beyond the French fleet to include the British industry.

Debbie Crockard,
MCS Senior Fisheries Policy Advocate

After lengthy discussions on Wednesday, during which the French were said to have expressed “regret” for recent skirmishes, it’s been agreed that no UK vessels will fish for scallops during the window in which the French are not allowed to harvest the molluscs.

However, the deal hinges on smaller British boats being compensated for their losses. The sum is to be debated in Paris on Friday - but if neither side can agree then the deal could be blown out of the water.

A joint statement from the UK and French governments said the talks in London had been “constructive” and a finalised deal hinges on a “reasonable compensation package”.

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

A previous industry accord prevented UK vessels larger than 15 metres doing so too, but smaller ones could help themselves.

The agreement will mean smaller British boats cannot take advantage of the window and a UK industry representative involved in the talks said they will only be finalised if British fisherman don’t end up being out of pocket.

Debbie Crockard, MCS Senior Fisheries Policy Advocate, said “While we are pleased that the conflict between the fishing fleets is currently halted, this highlights the significance of this resource to both the French and British. Closed areas for ALL vessels for all or part of the year to protect scallop stocks are a useful management tool and can help stocks to recover and remain at healthy levels.”

Jim Portus, the chief executive of the South Western Fish Producers Organisation, said: “I’m very pleased that we’ve negotiated a deal which satisfies the honour of fishermen on both sides.

“The French are in a hurry to make sure that it happens because what they don’t want either is for there to be another conflict.”

However, Mr Portus said that if the deal in Paris isn’t good enough the agreement will be rejected.

All British boats have been asked to voluntarily stop taking scallops from the conflict zone until the deal is finalised.

French industry representative Pascal Coquet said it was a “good deal”.

Last week, more than 30 French boats confronted five British vessels in the Channel with UK crews reporting rocks and smoke bombs among the projectiles thrown during the altercation.

Debbie Crockard added: “In general, scallop stocks are not well managed and lack accurate stock assessments and controls. Scallop dredging can also have significant impacts on the seabed and there is a lot of room to improve management substantially to deliver benefits to the marine environment and fishing fleets accessing these resources.

“The new Fisheries Bill proposed in the Government’s White Paper could pave the way for the kind of improvements needed, but unless we all ask for this, it may not happen. We only have until 12 September, so if you haven’t already, please support our campaign and let the government know that the new Fisheries Bill has to have sustainability at its heart!”

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