French fishermen sparked a maritime row today when 40 vessels surrounded a handful of British boats off Le Havre and subjected them to an intimidating show of force.
Five British scallop-fishing boats were encircled by the French, who sailed near them at dangerous speeds, hurled rocks and insults and fired flares across their bows.
The dispute was apparently linked to a difference in fishing regulations the French say undercuts their scallop industry. France prevents scallop-fishing between May 15 and October 1 but Britain does not.
Deputy director of a Normandy fisheries organisation Mathieu Vimard said the problem had grown worse as Britain was sending "industrial-sized" fishing vessels to the area, meaning that when the French scallop season began their catch had disappeared.
Fisherman Ludovic Lebon, who joined the intimidating display, said there was no violent intent.
"It annoyed the British but we didn't do any harm."
But Bill Brock of Britain's South Western Fish Producers organisation said: "It's a typical reaction by the French. Instead of sitting down and talking they threw rocks at us."
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