French fishermen ease protests against high fuel costs

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Striking fishermen in some Atlantic harbours have headed back to the sea after discussing about proposals agreed with the government.

26 May 2008

LA-ROCHE-SUR-YON - French fishermen pressed on with a blockade of several ports on Sunday but protests against high fuel costs were lifted in some Atlantic harbours after the government promised aid.

Fleets of striking fishermen in the Atlantic Loire region decided to head back to sea on Sunday after holding a meeting to discuss the aid package agreed with the government last week.

"The proposals are enough to calm the situation," said Francois Charrier, representing 70 trawlers at Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie port.

But fishermen decided to continue blocking the Channel port in Cherbourg until Monday while protesters in Normandy prevented boats from leaving marinas and searched trucks coming off ferries that might be bringing in fish, police said.

In a sign that the protest movement was easing, fishermen at the Altantic port of Les Sables d'Olonne, where the strike started on 10 May, voted on Saturday to suspend their action.

Fishermen escalated their protests last week, disrupting cross-Channel traffic, blocking fuel depots and ransacking fishstands at supermarkets as industry leaders negotiated with President Nicolas Sarkozy's government.

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Michel Barnier promised to provide emergency aid to help cushion the price of fuel, which has shot up to EUR 0.75 euro from EUR 0.40 in six months.

Striking fishermen were due to hold meetings in the key fishing ports of Boulogne-sur-mer, Le Guilvinec and Lorient on Monday to discuss the offer of EUR 110 million in immediate aid.

Meetings were also planned in La Rochelle and at the Channel ports of Saint-Malo and Granville where fishermen were either on strike or blocking access.

The fishermen argue that the soaring fuel prices are driving them to bankruptcy.

Fishermen in Belgium, Spain and Portugal are also planning protests later this week to press demands for government aid, saying they too are hard hit by high fuel prices.

[AFP / Expatica]

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