LONDON (Reuters) - Britain and France have agreed a deal over scallop fishing in the English Channel after fishermen from both countries clashed at sea last month, Britain’s food and agriculture ministry said on Wednesday.
French fishermen had accused the British of unfairly catching scallops in the Baie de Seine during the summer, when French boats were banned from doing so because of French regulations aimed at protecting shellfish stocks.
“The UK and French fishing industries and governments held constructive talks today about scallop fishing in the eastern Channel including Baie de Seine,” the governments of both countries said in a joint statement issued by Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
“An agreement on the principles of a deal has been reached.”
The dispute centres on the size of the boats that are allowed to fish in the Baie de Seine.
The two countries said a previous agreement involving British vessels 15 meters and over would be renewed and in addition there was an agreement in principle for British vessels under 15 metres to be included, subject to a “reasonable” compensation package that would be defined in Paris on Friday.
In the meantime there was a voluntary deal for all British boats to respect the French closure period.
The head of the Normandy fishing association Dimitri Rogoff said it was a “good overall agreement”.
“The terms of 2017 were extended for boats over 15 meters long,” he said. “Agreements on boats of less than 15 meters remain to be finalised with compensation to be defined.”
Earlier on Wednesday Britain’s junior agriculture and food minister George Eustice said he was confident France would supply more security resources to ensure that the row, which has seen fishermen throw rocks and projectiles at each other, did not happen again.
The dispute arose as Britain negotiates its exit from the European Union, with fishing and access to waters a particularly sensitive issue in key areas for the ruling minority Conservative government.
“The (French authorities) are putting additional gendarmerie and additional resources out there to ensure they have the capacity to deal with any further outbreaks,” Eustice told lawmakers, adding he was confident it would not recur.
France’s agriculture ministry had said it wanted to reach an agreement that allowed “vessels from both countries to exploit this resource in a fair manner, based on mutually accepted rules and conscious of the need to preserve the resource”.
Reporting by Paul Sandle and Elisabeth O'Leary; additional reporting by Richard Lough and Geert De Glercq in Paris; editing by Stephen Addison, William Maclean