The detention of a British trawler by France as it fished for scallops appears to be “politically motivated”, a director of the company that owns the vessel told AFP.
France has been carrying out extra checks on British boats as London and Paris row over post-Brexit fishing rights.
Andrew Brown, director of sustainability and public affairs at Macduff Shellfish based at Mintlaw in Aberdeenshire in northeastern Scotland, confirmed to AFP that its trawler was detained while fishing for scallops.
“It does seem to be a misunderstanding. We believe we have been fishing legally in French waters,” Brown said by telephone.
Access to the waters is “a little bit complicated”, but they opened for fishing earlier this month, he said.
“I suspect it is politically motivated”, he added, since “we’ve not had this issue” previously.
The Cornelis, a scallop-fishing trawler, is now being held at Le Havre while the skipper is being interviewed by French officials, he said.
“We’re trying to make contact with the French authorities,” Brown said, adding that they had not yet managed to do so.
The company is in touch with UK officials, the director said.
“We’re trying to ensure the UK government is working on our behalf.”
The trawler fishes for scallops that are processed in the UK and then exported to the Continent, mainly to France, Brown said.
The British boat’s detention comes amid a flare-up in Britain and France’s ongoing dispute over fishing rights.
This was sparked by licensing rules for EU fishing boats wanting to operate in waters around Britain and the Channel Islands.
Angered at the rejection of French boats, Paris is threatening trade disruptions from next week if its vessels are not granted more access to British waters.
These would include a ban on landing seafood.
The French maritime minister Annick Girardin said on Twitter that the checks being carried out on British boats were standard during the scallop-fishing season.
She said however that the checks were launched 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”.
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