Fishermen 'attacked by French' call for navy's help

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Media captionThe French claim British vessels are taking advantage of local conservation measures

Fishermen are calling for Royal Navy protection after claims they were attacked by French vessels.

Kevin Lochrane said his boat was surrounded by seven or eights boats in international waters 15 miles off Caen in a dispute over scallop beds.

One Scottish fisherman, Andy Scott, said he feared for his crew's safety during the incident.

Other crewmen, including from Devon, said they were also surrounded by the French fishermen.

They said the French fishermen had tried to damage their gear.

'Called for assistance'

Clinton Powell, from Devon, said: "Something has got to be done and we need naval protection."

Anton Bailey, from Brixham, claimed four French boats "threw rocks and tried to ram us".

Image caption Anton Bailey claims four French boats "threw rocks and tried to ram us"

Mr Lochrane, skipper of the Vertrouwen, said he had to call his crew off the deck "as it was unsafe".

"I called other vessels for assistance and when they arrived they had ropes fired at them too, and nets and ropes were put in the water to disable us."

He said a French fishing protection vessel refused to intervene.

"I've been at sea for 20 years and never seen anything like it," Mr Lochrane said.

"Our worry is if this all kicks off again then we're not getting any help from anybody.

"Maybe we could have our own naval vessel to assist us if this should ever happen again."

Mr Scott, of Dumfries-based Scott Trawlers, said three French fishermen eventually boarded his vessel and spoke to the skipper.

"He was able to satisfy them that he was legally entitled to fish there," said Mr Scott.

'Looks like premeditation'

French fisherman Claude Millinaire, who was among the protesters in the Baie de la Seine, said: "It's robbery. We work intelligently to preserve fish stocks.

"We leave them to grow during the summer and then it's others who come and reap the benefits. We are not OK with that."

Liberal Democrat Transport Minister Norman Baker, who is MP for Lewes, said: "So far unverified reports suggest that up to 40 French boats surrounded five British vessels who appeared to be fishing legally, albeit in French waters.

Image caption Kevin Lochrane said in 20 years at sea he had "never seen anything like it"

"That looks like premeditation and attempt to intimidate. Clearly we have to establish the facts."

Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon said: "UK vessels have a legitimate right to fish in these waters and France must continue to provide adequate protection to UK fishermen.

"We are monitoring the situation and will continue to keep an open dialogue with our French counterparts."

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency contacted French coastguards, who sent a patrol vessel to the area and said the French authorities were "continuing to monitor the situation".

The French Government says there is nothing it can do to stop the British boats, because they are in French waters perfectly legally.

Mr Powell, who was fishing on board The Golden Fleece Two, said: "None of our skippers could get away with it: we'd be locked up and legal action taken right away."

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