Smoke bombs have been thrown at boats

By Mike Pomranz
Updated August 30, 2018
Credit: Photo by Fred Tanneau via Getty Images

English and French people will likely continue to make snide remarks about each other forever, but the days of all-out war between the two would seem to be over. Except, apparently, when it comes to scallops.

This week has seen a serious escalation in what has been dubbed the “scallop wars.” Though not quite of the scale of the Hundred Years’ War, these small skirmishes between unarmed finishing boats in the English Channel are the result of growing tensions about who can harvest scallops—and more importantly, when can they do it—in the stretch of water that separates England and France.

According to the BBC, about 40 French boats drove away five British boats from an international fishing area just beyond a restricted 12-mile region off the French coast. Vessels were rammed, and rocks, metal, and smoke bombs were thrown. A couple British boats ended up with damaged windows, but no one was reported injured.

At the heart of the conflict is an inherently imbalanced arrangement. In a desire to prevent overfishing of the coveted scallops, the French passed a law that only allows the bivalves to be harvested from October to mid-May. However, the Brits apparently don’t believe any sort of regulation is necessary, and instead, are legally allowed to grab scallops year-round.

“For the Brits, it's an open bar—they fish when they want, where they want, and as much as they want,” Dimitri Rogoff, head of France’s Normandy fishing committee, said according to the BBC. “We don't want to stop them from fishing, but they could at least wait until 1 October so that we can share.”

Meanwhile, Britain’s National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations suggested any issues should be resolved at a more proper time and place. “We have raised the matter with the British government and asked for protection for our vessels, which are fishing legitimately,” Chief Executive Barrie Deas was quoted as saying. “The deeper issues behind the clashes should be settled by talking around the table, not on the high seas where people could be hurt.”

Indeed, footage posted by the BBC shows that these boats did not seem to be taking a safety-first approach.

Much like many tensions between the French and English, these scallop wars aren’t new and have been ongoing for at least 15 years. Apparently, in the past, different “gentlemen’s agreements” have led to truces between the two sides. But as both sides will tell you, it’s hard to have a gentlemen’s agreement between frogs and roast beefs!