December 4, 2021

France summons captain of seized British fishing boat to court as UK warns ‘two can play that game’

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The captain of a British fishing trawler detained in France was ordered to appear before a French court over allegations of illegal fishing, as the war of words between the two countries over post-Brexit fishing rights escalated on Friday.

French authorities seized the vessel, fined another British boat and announced the closure of nearly all of France’s ports to trawlers from the UK on Thursday, a major escalation in the long-running spat between the allies. France’s European affairs minister, Clement Beaune, said in an interview on French TV station CNEWS that aside from a few exceptions, all French ports will no longer be accessible to British boats, referring to vessels that offload fish and produce.

The captain of the Cornelis, Gert Jan, is expected to appear in court on August 11, 2022 over the alleged “unauthorized fishing by a non-EU vessel in French maritime waters,” according to a statement from deputy prosecutor Cyrille Fournier. “Upon inspection, the captain of the vessel was not in possession of the required authorization to fish in the French exclusive economic zone,” Fournier said in a statement.

Juliette Hatchman, CEO of the South West Fish Producers Organization, told CNN she believes the vessel’s crew was “in possession of the appropriate license to fish in European Union waters and was therefore fishing totally legally at the time of the boarding by French authorities.” However, Hatchman noted that it “appeared the vessel may have been missed off an approved UK list.” The latest French measures come in response to the UK government’s refusal to grant post-Brexit fishing licenses to several French fishermen. An EU commission spokesperson told journalists on Tuesday that as of October 1, the UK had granted licenses to 15 out of the 47 smaller French vessels that applied to fish in UK territorial waters.

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