EU urges 'amicable' end to Franco-British scallop war

Fishermen have clashed over access to rich stocks of scallops in waters near the mouth of the Seine River

The European Commission on Wednesday urged France and Britain to find an "amicable" solution after fishermen from the two countries clashed in the English Channel over a hoard of scallops.

Brussels insisted however that it could not get involved in the fight as arrangements for trawling for the prized shellfish were made between individual countries, not at a European level.

"We saw the reports of incidents involving French and British fishermen off the coast of Normandy," European Commission spokesman Daniel Rosario told a daily briefing in Brussels.

"Scallop fishery is regulated at national level and over the past years common management measures have been agreed between France, the UK and Ireland," the spokesman added.

"So it is in the interest first and foremost of the fishermen that this agreement is in place. And we invite the national authorities to resolve any dispute in an amicable way as has been done in the past."

As a years-long dispute boiled over, five heavily outnumbered British scallop boats sailed into battle with around 35 French vessels in the incident on Tuesday.

Fishermen from both sides hurled stones and insults at each other while some of the boats also rammed each other, according to video footage.

The skirmish took place more than 12 nautical miles out to sea where the British are legally allowed to fish all year round.

But their French counterparts, restricted to fishing for scallops between October 1 and May 15, have accused the British of depleting stocks and want them to face the same rules.

The issue is doubly sensitive given the uncertain future of arrangements for fishing in the area after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019, particularly if Britain crashes out without a withdrawal deal.