The French Navy is ready to intervene if another row erupts between the fishermen involved in the “scallop wars” in the English Channel.
Last week, French and English boats were filmed in a clash that saw rocks being thrown and boats being rammed against one another, as a battle over scallop supplies erupted.
Addressing the matter, French agriculture minister Stephane Travert told French TV station CNews: “We can’t keep going on like this, we can’t keep having skirmishes like that.
“The French Navy is ready to step in if more clashes break out, as well as carrying out checks.”
Travert added that he had spoken to his British counterpart, Reuters reported, ahead of fresh talks between the fisherman.
Last Tuesday’s at-sea clash took place 22km off the Normandy coast, where British boats are legally entitled to fish all year round.
French ones are only permitted to do so during the scallop fishing season – which runs from 1 October to 15 May – and for more than a decade tensions have been rising, with the French accusing the Brits of “pillaging” stocks.
The incident saw 40 French vessels gather in protest against their British counterparts, allegedly “throwing rocks, shackles and flares onto the boats”.
Devon-based Fisherman Derek Meredith told The Times: “They were throwing ropes in the sea to try and stop our boats escaping. Our crews were petrified.
“One of the shackles smashed a galley window which is serious because it means the boat isn’t watertight.
“There has been a bit of trouble over the past couple of years but nothing as serious as this.”
Meredith argued that British fisherman should be offered Royal Navy protection, and Labour’s shadow coastal communities minister, Luke Pollard MP, backed his calls.
“The government must answer questions about the absence of the Royal Navy’s fisheries protection vessels or the French Navy, leaving our fishing boats unprotected and allowing a disruption to legal fishing, which put our boats and crews at risk,” he said.
Environment secretary Michael Gove said last week that it was “the responsibility of the French to ensure that those who have a legal right to fish can continue to fish uninterrupted”.
He added: “My heart goes out to the British fishermen who were caught up in the terrible scenes that we saw happen earlier this week.
“They were fishing entirely legally, they had every right to be in those waters and we talked to the French authorities in order to ensure that we have a protocol.”