French fishermen threaten to ‘take up arms’ as English Channel row with Dutch explodes

Jersey: French boats join post-Brexit fishing rights protest

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Dutch fishermen were prevented from unloading their goods at Boulogne-sur-Mer after their French counterparts launched a blockade. In the latest incident in a long row over post-Brexit fishing rights, fishermen in Bologue-Sur-Mer accused the Dutch of “plundering the English Channel” and blocked the key French port on Sunday.

Around two dozen fishermen participated in the blockade on Sunday evening and representatives have promised to continue action in the following two weeks.

French fishermen are becoming increasingly concerned about the growth in the fleet of Dutch-owned fly-shooters, which operate under Belgian, French and UK flags.

Regional fishing chiefs claim the Dutch vessels are becoming more regular eastern Channel and are a threat to French vessels who see them as serious competition.

Fly-shooting or pulse fishing, which is widely practised in the Netherlands, involves using multiple nets to encircle and capture shoals of fish.

 

Heavy ropes drag across the ocean floor which will displace whatever is underneath.

In a statement today, Olivier Leprêtre, President of the Hauts De France regional fisheries committee, said: “We demand that systematic controls on their landings be put in place to protect us from fraud that is detrimental to the resource and to our activities.

“We denounce the productivist Dutch fishing model and we ask that the catches be subject to the same controls imposed on us .”

The European Parliament and the EU Council agreed to a ban on the practice in 2019, with a transitional period running to June 30 this year under certain strict conditions.

The Netherlands lost a court battle against the EU-wide ban after Europe’s top court said lawmakers have wide discretion in making legislation.

The French fishing chief claimed they had been “denouncing” the practice for ten years adding: “We try to build things but we get nowhere.”

The UK Government were also criticised and accused of “ejecting” the French from the English Channel by refusing to issue the appropriate licences required to operate in British waters.

Mr Leprêtre said: “We arrive in a situation of no return with Brexit, because it was Brexit that ejected us from English waters.

“It resulted in all of us finding ourselves in only French waters and there is looting.

“It will be repeated action until there is movement. “

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As a result of a lack of progress, Mr Leprêtre added: “We said to ourselves now we take up arms.

“We don’t want to wait anymore.”

The row comes as MEPs on the EU’s Regional Development Committee approved a £5 billion Brexit adjustment reserve which will support the countries and sectors most affected by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The allocation method will take into account the trade, fisheries and population of maritime regions bordering the United Kingdom.

The funds are expected to significantly benefit local communities across France, Belgium and the Netherlands dependent on fishing activities in UK waters.

Pascal Arimont, Belgian Member of the European Parliament for the Christian Social Party, said: “We need to ensure that EU aid reaches the countries, regions, businesses and people most affected by Brexit. European businesses that are already suffering from the COVID-19 crisis should not pay twice for the Brexit debacle.”

MEPs have also warned of further fishing battles in the English Channel with Reform Europe politician Nathalie Loiseau, adding: “There’s a time when it’s going to clash.”

Whitehall officials close to fisheries negotiations with the EU would not be drawn to Mr Leprêtre’s comments tonight.

 

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