French fishermen have clashed with a number of British boats after a “scallop war” erupted in the English Channel.
Rocks, smoke bombs and other projectiles are reported to have been hurled at English and Scottish vessels during the confrontation in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Reportedly outnumbered by the French one to seven, the British boats were allegedly attacked by the rival flotilla that had gathered overnight in protest over fishing rights.
Dramatic footage of the incident broadcast by France 3 Normandie showed boats colliding as an object was thrown toward them.
Some of the British vessels are said to have later returned to UK harbours with signs of “criminal” damage.
The long-running dispute is over a scallop-rich area of the Channel that French fishermen are prevented from harvesting due to domestic environmental laws.
Dimitri Rogoff, head of a Normandy fishermen’s association, said the violent scenes “demonstrate the exasperation of Normandy fishermen in a situation which persists and does not change”.
“I urge everyone to avoid these situations that endanger men’s lives,” he said.
One of the British boats involved in the clash is said to be the Honeybourne 3, a Scottish scallop dredger.
The Scottish White Fish Producers Association condemned the “vigilante” French fishermen.
“Attacking our vessels is appalling,” the group said.
Britain’s National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations has appealed for calm, saying the dispute should be resolved through negotiations.
“We have raised the matter with the British Government and asked for protection for our vessels, which are fishing legitimately,” its 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.”