Scallop Wars: ‘UK doesn’t have enough ships,’ says former Navy chief

The Royal Navy has ‘insufficient’ ships to protect British fisherman from rock-hurling French seamen, claims ex-First Sea Lord as mariners war over scallops

  • Labour’s Lord West of Spithead: ‘Insufficient numbers of vessels was exposed’
  • Mariners from both countries clashed in English channel over fishing rights
  • ‘It’s clear we have insufficient ships to patrol the United Kingdom’s territorial seas and our Exclusive Economic Zone,’ he said

Ex-First Sea Lord, Lord West, said the ‘insufficient’ numbers of vessels had been exposed by recent clashes

An ex-Navy chief has warned the UK doesn’t have enough ships to patrol its territorial waters after British and French mariners went to war over scallops.

Former First Sea Lord, Labour’s Lord West of Spithead, said the ‘insufficient’ numbers of vessels had been exposed by recent clashes between fishermen.

Rocks, smoke bombs and other projectiles are reported to have been hurled at English and Scottish vessels during the confrontation in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

French fisherman are angry about a domestic ban preventing them from harvesting the scallop-rich region while British boats are free fish. 

‘It is clear that we have insufficient ships to patrol the United Kingdom’s territorial seas and our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),’ Lord West wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

‘Co-ordination of the few ships we do have is fragmented. In theory, co-ordination is exercised by the co-located Joint Maritime Operations Command Centre.

‘But this command centre lacks a single commander with authority to order government departments to take action, and therefore is unable to exercise proper command. After Brexit, this will be disastrous.’

On Tuesday, British and French boats clashed off the English Channel over fishing rights

Footage shows a Scottish trawler boat on fire after flares were reportedly thrown after the latest flare-up in a years-long war over the prized shellfish

When Britain leaves the EU it will be responsible for patrolling its EEZ, rather than being part of a shared EEZ for the whole of the bloc.

EU members’ access to British fishing waters will then need to be negotiated as part of a Brexit deal.

French authorities try to preserve scallop stocks by banning their ships from fishing in the region over the summer, a measure that ends on October 1.

This law does not apply to the British, however – who anger the French mariners by harvesting scallops during this window.

The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy allows any member state with a registered fleet – including Britain – ‘equal access’ to EU waters more than 12 nautical miles off the shore of other countries.

The Baie de Seine stretches from the coast of Normandy to considerably beyond the 12 nautical miles, meaning British boats can access it.

The scallop feud came to a head on Tuesday in the Baie de Seine area when around 35 to 40 French ships boxed in a dozen British boats near the coast of Normandy. 

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