MP's anger as fishermen attacked by French rivals
A PLYMOUTH MP has raised concerns over an incident at sea in which British fishermen were left to fend for themselves for hours while they were pelted with rocks and flares by French rivals.
About 40 French and eight UK vessels were involved in the incident in the Bay de Seine on Monday.
Alison Seabeck, the MP for Moor View, has written to ministers to express her concerns that the fishermen were left without support from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO).
"Vessels were surrounded and objects thrown at them," Ms Seabeck said. "The smaller 15-metre vessels felt particularly threatened when they were fishing legitimately in international waters."
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She will table parliamentary questions on Monday to demand answers from the Government over rule changes that she believes led to a violent confrontation.
Ms Seabeck said scallop fishermen had been left in confusion over when and where they were allowed to fish.
She said: "I have written as a matter of urgency to the minister seeking answers to the concerns which have been raised directly with me and seeking reassurance that every effort is being made to ensure this isn't allowed to happen again."
Terri Portman, managing director of Scott Trawlers Plymouth, blamed changes to the scallop-fishing rules.
She said Monday's dispute had cost her Estover factory a day's work.
Ms Portman said that boats were now allowed to be at sea for only 36 days a quarter. Fishermen who used to go "prospecting" in other parts of the Channel were now forced to concentrate their efforts where they knew there were scallops.
Scott Trawlers is an £8million-a-year business employing 50 people. Almost all of the company's output is exported to France, Spain and Italy. But in the past year business had slumped because of the rule changes, Ms Portman said.
She had been in contact with trawlermen affected by Monday's confrontation. "They immediately contacted UK authorities and expected them to send fisheries protection vessels.
"Instead the UK authorities sent the French, and it took them six hours to arrive.
"It took until Thursday for the Marine Management Organisation and ministers to respond."