French fishermen pull plug on 'Scallop Wars' talks with UK rivals

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French fishermen have broken off talks with British rivals for a new deal on access to scallop-rich waters in the English Channel, a long-simmering conflict that flared into a high-seas confrontation last month.

Representatives from both sides had been meeting in London since last week to hammer out an accord that would stop smaller British boats from scooping up the prized mollusks outside the official fishing season.

"It's game over," Hubert Carre, the head of France's CNPMEM national fishing committee, told AFP.

"We made an offer last night that we considered more than fair, the same we made last Friday. We told them we wanted an answer by midday," he said.

A preliminary accord was reached last week that would have barred UK boats from waters off the Baie de Seine area of Normandy in northwest France outside the season, which runs from October to May.

The current deal lets British boats smaller than 15 metres (50 feet) fish the area before then, giving them first dibs at one of the main scallop sources off the French coast.

But British fishermen demanded more compensation as part of the deal than the French side could stomach.

Carre said France had proposed allowing British boats to fish 50 tonnes of cod and 25 tonnes of sole in place of the scallops.

"It's the unanimous stance of all industry representatives," Carre said. "Now it's over, we won't be going back to the negotiating table."

He said he believed the UK side had not responded to the offer "because they thought we were bluffing."

Dozens of French boats confronted a handful of British rivals in the waters late last month to keep them from the area, with a few vessels ramming others as angry French fishermen threw stones and smoke-bombs.

The issue has become even more sensitive given the uncertain future of arrangements for fishing in the area after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019, particularly if the UK has to quit without securing a withdrawal deal.


© 2018 AFP

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