Scallop Ship

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Agreement Could End 'Scallop Wars' Between British, French Fishermen

September 06, 2018 - 2:21 pm

LONDON (WCBS 880/CBS News/AP) -- The idea of conflict between the U.K. and France likely brings to mind history lessons about the Hundred Years’ War, or the War of the 14th and 15th centuries, or the Seven Years’ War for control of North America, or Napoleon’s failure to invade the British mainland between 1801 and 1803.

But while it’s nothing on the level of any of those fights of antiquity, there is actually a conflict going on between the U.K. and France right now. And it’s all over a certain kind of shellfish.

The "Scallop Wars" are a conflict over fishing rights off of France’s coast, and video has shown it has reached the point of boats ramming each other at sea.

But officials and industry representatives said after talks in London that "an agreement on the principles of a deal has been reached" with details to be ironed out in Paris on Friday.

Scallops are a highly-prized shellfish, and the fishermen get good money for them, CBS News Correspondent Larry Miller explained to WCBS 880’s Pat Farnack.

Some of the richest scallop fishing is on the French side of the English Channel, CBS News foreign correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports. It attracts fishermen from both countries eager to cash in on the lucrative delicacy.

“What the problem was about a week ago, you had 40 French boats clashing with five British boats off the coast of northern France – about 12 nautical miles off the Normandy coast. The French fishermen are angry because they don’t have the same rights to fish off their own coast as the British do under previous agreements, so French fishermen are banned from taking scallops from that area between the month of May 15 and October 1, and that’s to conserve stocks. However, smaller British ships can do it the whole year round,” Miller explained.

The French do not appreciate the setup at all.

“The French are saying, ‘You’re depleting our assets. We want you to stop, and we don’t even want you here,” he said.

Last week, it reached the point in which French and British fishermen angrily bumped boats over access to the fisheries. About 35 French boats confronted five British ones, sometimes banging hulls, in international waters during the incident.

A joint statement Wednesday said that a previous agreement involving British boats 15 yards and over will be renewed. In addition, the agreement calls for smaller vessels to be included in the deal "subject to a reasonable compensation package" still to be finalized.

"In the meantime, there is a voluntary agreement for all U.K. vessels to respect the French closure period" in the disputed area, officials said. British Fisheries Minister George Eustice said the goal of Wednesday's talks was to reach a new agreement that would prevent more confrontations.

An agreement reached in 2013 had broken down, leading to the clashes.

Miller said the price of scallops in the U.S. should not be affected.

“The scallops are sold locally in the U.K. and domestically in the U.K. and France, but they’re also exported to other countries and frozen and that sort of thing,” he said.

But he also noted that the Scallop Wars come as concerns mount as to how relations between the U.K. and continental Europe might change when Brexit takes effect.

“There is now an increasing amount of concern – even tension – throughout Europe and the U.K. – what’s it going to be like after the divorce happens? And that will be officially after the end of March of next year,” Miller said. “So the friendship under the EU might not be as close once the divorce happens.”

(© 2018 WCBS 880. CBS News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)