French Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert said on Tuesday, September 4, the French navy was “ready to intervene in case of clashes” after fishermen hurled stones and insults in the latest episode of the “Scallops War”.
French fishermen accuse the British of unfairly catching scallops in the Baie de Seine during the summer, when French boats are banned because of French regulations aimed at protecting shellfish stocks.
Britain’s junior agriculture and food minister George Eustice said on Wednesday, September 5, officials from the two countries were meeting later and he was confident there would not be further clashes.
Scallops are just the latest foodstuff to have triggered conflict.
There were in fact three “cod wars” between Britain and Iceland.
In the 1950s Britain was home to the biggest fishing fleet in the world — employing thousands of men — and trawlers from Grimsby, Fleetwood and Peterhead regularly headed north to the fertile seas off the southern coast of Iceland.
In 1958 Iceland declared an Exclusive Economic Zone and tried to stop British trawlers from fishing off its coast.
The dispute flared up again in 1972 and Royal Navy vessels were called in to protect fishermen from Icelandic gunboats who fired at trawlers and in one case towed it to a port in Iceland, impounded the cod and jailed the skipper for 30 days.
In 1975 Iceland extended the EEZ to 200 miles, resulting in much uglier clashes.