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Off The Coast Of Normandy, Britain And France Are At War Over Scallops


There was another international dispute today. This one involved insults, rocks, flayers and the English Channel. It was between French and British fishing fleets over who has the right to dredge for scallops off the coast of Normandy. Several boats collided during the incident, but no one was hurt. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Pillaging, bullying, piracy - these are some of the accusations French and British fishermen have hurled at each other in the last two days. The fight is over the precious giant scallop, or Coquille Saint-Jacques as they're known in French, that is fished off the coast of Normandy.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Unintelligible).

BEARDSLEY: This French news video shows British and French fishing boats colliding as their crews throw rocks and insults at each other. At issue is a law in France that prevents fishermen from gathering scallops until October 1. British fishermen aren't covered by that law. A French television crew accompanied boat captain Anthony Quesnel as he sailed out from Normandy to confront the British fishermen at 3 a.m. Wednesday morning.


ANTHONY QUESNEL: (Through interpreter) If we let them do this, they'll ravage the sector. We have quotas. They have nothing. Seven days a week they scrape for scallops a whole month before we start working. We'd like them to start with us on October 1.

BEARDSLEY: Dale Rodmell is with Britain's National Federation of Fishermen's Organizations. He says the British are entirely within their right to trawl for scallops.

DALE RODMELL: Essentially the U.K. fleets working in French waters is working entirely legally.

BEARDSLEY: Rodmell says in recent years, the British have agreed to hold back on gathering scallops until the beginning of October in exchange for other fishing rights from the French. Another British fisherman, Mike Park of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association, says they weren't able to reach an agreement with the French this year because of some rogue fishermen.

MIKE PARK: This year, they refused to strike the deal on the basis that there are a number of small, U.K. vessels that fish the area that are unregulated.

BEARDSLEY: For once, Brexit has nothing to do with this Anglo-French argument. Park says what happened at sea last night was dangerous and not the way to solve things. He says he expects that French and British fishermen will sit down to work things out in the coming days on land. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.


Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.
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