French and British fishermen clashed in the English Channel Tuesday in the latest installment of the long-running “scallop war.”
Video of the incident broadcast by France 3 Normandie showed smoke bombs and rocks being thrown at British crews, while a number of boats appeared to be rammed.
The five British boats, greatly outnumbered by an estimated 35 French vessels, were chased from the scallop-rich Baie de Seine area off Normandy, maritime official Ingrid Parot told AFP.
“We’re trying to push the English out because if we allow them to carry on they’ll pillage the area,” French fisherman Anthony Quesnel says in the video.
“We have quotas, we have hours and they have nothing, no quotas, seven days out of seven they fill their boats. They come, they dredge and they fill their vessel and they go home. They work a month earlier than us and they leave us the crumbs,” he added.
The skirmish took place 12 nautical miles off the Normandy coast where British crews are allowed to fish all year round, while their French counterparts are restricted to a shorter harvesting season from October 1 to May 15.
“I condemn the violence on both sides though the English did have much bigger boats than we did,” Normandy fishing chief Dimitri Rogoff told CNN.
“The French were just trying to push them up north. Yes, legally they’re (the British) allowed to be there but we contest this right. There’s a Common Fisheries Policy and on the French side we have quotas but for the English it’s open bar!”
The French feel British fishermen are attempting to deplete stocks before the start of the harvesting season. The problem has grown worse over the past 15 years as British boats have increased their catches considerably.
While the two sides have reached agreements over the past five years, the French blocked a deal this year, he added.
There is also frustration from French fishermen that the British use bigger trawlers, some of which are double the size of their French counterparts and also have the ability to freeze scallops on board.
“We didn’t sign the annual agreement because we want to change certain aspects of it and the English won’t budge, which is a shame,” Rogoff said.
“We want better management of those fishing zones. We don’t start fishing until the 1st of October and they arrived on the 22nd of August. We just want everyone to start fishing at the same time.”
Britain’s National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations has urged calm and said any differences should be resolved through negotiation.
“We have raised the matter with the British government and asked for protection for our vessels, which are fishing legitimately,” Chief Executive Barrie Deas told the BBC. “The deeper issues behind the clashes should be settled by talking around the table, not on the high seas where people could be hurt.”
Catherine Paul from the French Regional Committee of Fishermen told CNN that her organization had “tried to calm the fishermen and to have talks with the English for better management of the scallops.”
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “We are aware of reports of aggression directed towards UK fishing vessels in an area of the English Channel not under UK control. These vessels were operating in an area they are legally entitled to fish.
“The safety of the UK fleet is our highest priority, and we will continue to monitor the presence and activities of vessels in the area. We are in contact with industry and the French administration to encourage meaningful dialogue and prevent further incidents from occurring.”
CNN’s Simon Cullen contributed to this report.