France detains UK vessel amid fishing rights row

One ship detained for fishing without license while another fined for obstructing inspection, says French maritime minister

Shweta Desai   | 28.10.2021
France detains UK vessel amid fishing rights row FILE PHOTO


Tensions between France and the UK over an ongoing fishery row reached a new high on Thursday after two British vessels were penalized for fishing in French waters.

A day after Paris unleashed a set of retaliatory measures against London, Maritime Minister Annick Girardin announced that one ship had been detained for fishing without a license while a second was fined for obstructing an inspection by French gendarmes.

The detained ship was not on the license lists granted to the UK by the European Commission and France, and its captain risks sanctions, a Maritime Ministry statement said.

The ships were targeted during a routine check in the Bay of Seine off Le Havre on Wednesday as “part of the tightening of controls in the Channel, in the context of discussions on licenses with the UK and the European Commission,” the statement added.

Girardin defended the action in an interview with French news outlet RTL as a “skirmish” and “not a war.”

“The French and the fishermen have rights. There was an agreement signed. We must enforce this agreement. We have fishing rights, we must defend them and we will defend them," she said.

Separately, Clement Beaune, minister for Europe, told CNews that France has to “speak the language of force” because the “British government understands only that.”

He underlined that France had until now maintained dialogue, but this only resulted in the UK providing half of the fishing licenses. “That’s not enough and not acceptable,” he added.

The measures against the British shipping vessels came hours after the Macron government announced a ban on landing seafood, disruption of bilateral trade, and increasing customs checks on products brought to France as of next Tuesday if the UK continues to withhold the granting of licenses to more French fishermen. British officials have called the measures “disappointing and disproportionate.”

​​​​​​​The two countries have been tied in the dispute over what Paris says is a breach of the post-Brexit fishing agreement. It has accused British authorities of imposing new restrictions and refusing licenses to French fishermen who have traditionally fished in Channel waters.

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