Sunday, 5 December, 2021

UK boat detained by France amid fishing rights row

  • Sun Online Desk
  • 28th October, 2021 03:49:56 PM
  • Print news

A British trawler has been seized by France and another has been fined, amid an escalating row over post-Brexit fishing rights.

French maritime minister Annick Girardin said the ships were cautioned during checks off Le Havre overnight.

She said the first did not comply right away and the second was not allowed to fish in French waters so was detained.

A spokeswoman for the UK government said it was "urgently" looking into reports of French enforcement activity.

Brexit Minister Lord Frost said on Wednesday that French threats to block UK boats from ports were "disappointing".


Ms Girardin said on Twitter one of the British trawlers was caught fishing in the Bay of Seine without the proper licences.

She said the boat was diverted to the port of Le Havre and detained by the judicial authority, where their catch could be confiscated and the boat held until a deposit is paid.

The boat's captain also risks penal sanctions.

'Legally fishing'

The BBC has confirmed the boat being held is called the Cornelis Gert Jan, which operates mostly into and out of the port of Shoreham, in West Sussex, and is operated by MacDuff Shellfish of Scotland.

MacDuff Shellfish said its fishing activity was "entirely legal" and the vessel was "legally fishing for scallop" in French waters when it was detained by the authorities.

The firm said it would defend itself against any claims and that its boat was just "another pawn" in the ongoing France-UK fishing row and urged the UK government to "defend the rights of the UK fishing fleet".

Meanwhile, the other boat was fined for initially resisting the check, Ms Girardin added.

The minister said checks on the British vessels were standard during the scallop fishing season.

But she added they had also been undertaken against "the backdrop of the tightening of controls in the Channel, in the context of discussions on licenses with the United Kingdom and the European Commission".

Deidre Brock, the SNP's environment spokesperson, will ask an Urgent Question in the House of Commons at 10:30 BST.

She will ask Environment Secretary George Eustice "if he will make a statement on how the UK will work with French officials to mitigate a trading dispute".

Barrie Deas, of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, the body representing fishermen in England, said a "tit for tat" relationship between the UK and France was "unhelpful".

Mr Deas told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the enforcement actions might be "normal" but were "very concerning" in the context of the French government's threats.

France had warned that it would block British boats from some ports next week - as well as tightening checks on UK boats and trucks - if a post-Brexit dispute over fishing licences was not resolved by 2 November.

The UK said threats by France were "disproportionate" and a breach of international law and trade agreements.

Speaking before the latest development, Lord Frost said the government was seeking "urgent clarification" of France's plans and would "consider what further action is necessary in that light".

France was angered by a decision from the UK and Jersey last month to deny fishing licences to dozens of French boats, and argued that it breached the Brexit deal.

French trawlers previously protested outside the port of St Helier in Jersey, a British Crown dependency, with France threatening to cut off Jersey's electricity supplies in retaliation.

On Wednesday evening, it issued its ultimatum, saying it would begin to impose "targeted measures" from Tuesday of next week, including:

•             Preventing British fishing boats from disembarking at ports

•             Increasing border and sanitary checks on UK goods

•             Tightening security checks on British boats

•             Increasing checks on trucks going to and from the UK

France said it was also preparing further sanctions, which could include cutting electricity supplies to Jersey, a British Crown dependency, as it previously threatened in May.