Scallop Wars Escalate in Another Clash in the Channel

Scallop Wars

An attack of forty French fishermen by five British boats in the channel is the latest of similar incidents that go back at least 15 years. The fights have of late escalated with stones and smoke bombs being hulled at across the boats. The two exchanged rude words in two languages and the British retreated. These incidents have been going on for 900 years. It is difficult to tell the rights and wrongs. However, the French boats were undoubtedly the aggressors in yesterday evening’s incident. They had taken to sea not to fish, but to harass Scottish and British boats that were apparently fishing in their waters.

The understandably irritated French fishermen foolhardily took on the boats seemingly having reason for the exasperation. This latest outbreak of the scallop war should be viewed in a Brexit context. An alternative context will be the vague and simplistic UK plans to reclaim their fishing grounds that encourage exaggerated expectations and deep uncertainties. The right for British boats to set nets in French waters is subject to EU guidelines. However, it pre-dates the EU fishing policy. The British fishermen are insistent on asserting their liberty to fish in French waters. However, it is not just a France vs. Britain row. It is a Big Boats against Small Boats row and the environmental degradation being caused by modern industrial-scale methods of fishing.

The clashes took place deep in French waters about 15 miles from the French coast. The channel is about 100 miles wide at the point where the British were fishing. This was well beyond any legal definition of the British scallop. There were up to 40 French boats against only five from the British side. The French boats were, however, tiny and the British were huge.

Since there has been a lot of talk on European boats pillaging the British fishing grounds, it is important to dwell to state that this was one of the cases where boats registered to the UK depend on privileges to the European waters. The scallops were dredged by British boats and are sold back to the continental market. Under the common fisheries policy terms, the British do not have the privilege to dredge scallops as close as 10 miles from the shores of France. However, the fishermen on the French side have never disputed that privilege. Nevertheless, they do challenge the right of the British to fish inside a 12-mile limit.

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