PARIS (Reuters) - Talks between French and British fisherman over rights to catch scallops have ended in failure, France’s agriculture ministry said on Wednesday, raising the risk of further tensions at sea.
French fishermen have accused the British of unfairly catching scallops in the Baie de Seine off the coast of Normandy during the summer, when French boats are banned from doing so because of French regulations aimed at protecting shellfish stocks.
“Agriculture and Food Minister Stephane Travert notes the failure of the fishermen to reach an agreement for this season’s scallop fishing,” the ministry said in a statement.
French and British fishing representatives had reached an outline deal earlier this month but have since been unable to finalize terms.
Travert has warned that the French navy is ready to act if there are fresh clashes between fishermen of the two countries in what has been dubbed the Scallop Wars.
Britain’s government said on Wednesday it was “disappointed” that no agreement had been reached.
“The UK government’s priority is the safety of the UK fleet,” the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said in a statement.
“Where the UK fleet is legally entitled to fish in French waters, the law is clear that they are entitled to protection from the French authorities. We have reiterated this to the French government.”
The two sides had agreed a deal for boats over 15 meters (49 feet) last Wednesday, hoping to find an agreement for catches by smaller boats in further talks.
French fishermen made a final offer to their British counterparts on Tuesday, setting a Wednesday deadline for the British to accept, an agriculture ministry spokeswoman said.
The head of France’s National Fishing Committee, Hubert Carre, said the British side had made “exorbitant” demands to be compensated for not fishing.
He said the French side had made a “take it or leave it offer” and their British counterparts “did not even deign to answer”.
Asked if further high-sea clashes were likely, he said: “I don’t know. We’ll see if the British try to provoke us”.
Reporting by Gus Trompiz; Additional reporting by Simon Carraud and Andy Bruce in London; Editing by Leigh Thomas, Hugh Lawson and Peter Cooney