Fragile peace returns to lobster grounds –

Fragile peace returns to lobster grounds Published:  06 July, 2006

A FRAGILE peace has returned to the rich lobster grounds off the East Coast of Yorkshire following three days of clashes between local fishermen and French trawlers.

The Bridlington and Flamborough crews say the French boats are still in the area, but there have been no fresh incidents since last week’s flare up which saw hundreds of lobster pots lost. But they are warning that while immediate tempers may have cooled further trouble lies over the horizon.

A Royal Navy fishery protection boat has been on the scene and boarded two or three of the French trawlers, but so far no arrests have been made.

Last week a total of 14 French boats trawled across the rich shellfish grounds off the Humber Estuary causing the loss of 1,500 pots and damage estimated at over £300,000. At least one trawler was fishing illegally inside the 12 mile limit where around 80 per cent of the pots are located.

Speaking at sea from his boat the Magdalene Ann, Gary Hodgson, vice chairman of the Bridling and Flamborough Fishermen’s Society, said: “We have made very little progress in this dispute so far. There have been no new incidents but the French have not gone away. They are continuing to fish off the coast, mainly around the gas rigs in that area.

“Fortunately, the lobster season has only just started otherwise our losses – bad enough as they are – would have been a great deal higher. We believe that thousands of them would have been destroyed. The problem is that many of the foreign boats in that area are usually doing something that is illegal.”

He added: “We are dreading the months of September and October when the crab season begins and we have no doubt that the French fleet will be back then.” The Bridlington crews, who fish one of the richest shellfish areas around the British Isles are hoping Defra and ultimately the Government will rally to their support. Their anger has been increased by the fact that the French crews have failed to respond to warning flares and radio calls which are broadcast on emergency channels and therefore should always be switched on. The suggestion is that they are simply turning a deaf ear to the warnings and carrying on regardless.

The Bridlington crews have warned that unless some action is taken to prevent further damage to the pots a more serious conflict could develop because they were not prepared to sit back and let their livelihoods be destroyed. Both the North-eastern Sea Fisheries Committee and Defra are keeping a close watch on the situation. is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.