Mike Park: French fishermen acted like pirates in clash with Scots

Fishing boats collide in the English Channel after a dispute between French and Scottish fishermen turned nasty (France 3 via AP)
Fishing boats collide in the English Channel after a dispute between French and Scottish fishermen turned nasty (France 3 via AP)
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The actions of French fishing boats, which clashed with Scottish vessels over fishing rights in the English Channel, were comparable to piracy, claims Mike Park, chief executive of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association.

The scenes we witnessed in the English Channel were deplorable and an act of high-seas piracy designed to cause destruction.

The threat to life was obvious as was the inability of the French to control their emotions. This was a series of planned attacks to prevent UK fishermen earning an honest day’s pay.

For a number of years now, UK fishermen have worked closely with their French counterparts to deliver a win-win formulae that helped us avoid such clashes.

That formulae consisted of the French donating scallop effort to the UK fleet, which it lacks in sufficient numbers, in return for UK vessels avoiding the Eastern English Channel (Area Viid) for a three-month period from August to October.

READ MORE: Watch French and Scottish boats clash after ‘scallop war’ in English Channel

UK vessels are relatively happy with the deal and, as such, are willing to avoid what are productive grounds in the Eastern Channel.

Not ideal but a positive sum game for everyone involved. This year, the French ignored our offer to reach a similar agreement on the basis that a number of the very small inshore UK vessels are not covered by the arrangement.

Unfortunately, it is not within anyone’s power at the moment to dictate to these vessels which remain largely unregulated. What is important, however, is the scale and context of the issue.

READ MORE: Fishing leaders call for Brexit ‘backbone’ to secure £1.6bn boom

In total, UK scallop vessels landed in the region of 1,000 tons of the scallops from the English Channel, with the small inshore vessels making up a part of that.

The French, on the other hand, landed anywhere between 14,000 and 17,000 tons. Are these small vessels really an issue big enough to wreck a deal? I would suggest they are an excuse, not a reason.

Deal or no deal what we can’t have is individuals or groups of individuals taking the law into their own hands.

Given political tensions as we move to D-Day on Brexit, you would imagine that French President Emmanuel Macron would be pulling the French fishing leaders aside and giving them a whiff of French diplomacy.