UK, French fishermen fail to finalise 'Scallop Wars' deal

Dozens of French boats confronted a handful of British rivals in the waters late last month over the area's prized scallops

British and French fishermen failed to finalise a deal to end the so-called Scallop Wars over fishing in the Channel on Friday, the French camp said, despite reaching an agreement in principle earlier this week.

"The fact is that there is no agreement because British claims (for compensation) were disproportionate.... We have a blockage but the discussions have not broken down," Hubert Carre, director of the French National Fishing Committee, told AFP.

"The French and British sides are in the process of debriefing," he added, stressing that it would now be up to the "two ministers to call each other to arrange a possible future meeting".

Tensions boiled over last week when five British vessels sparred with dozens of French boats in the sensitive Seine Bay, with video footage showing fishermen from both sides ramming each other.

But following a day of talks in London on Wednesday, the two sides reached agreement on the principles of a deal expected to bring the hostilities to an end.

The skirmishes, which occurred around 12 nautical miles from the Normandy coastline, were the most serious in years of wrangling over the area's prized scallops.

They caused France to place its navy on standby in the area, with Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert saying Tuesday it was "ready to intervene in case of clashes".

French fishermen had been incensed that small British boats of less than 15 metres (50 feet) long were accessing the highly productive waters, while their own government limited them to fishing there to between October and May to allow stocks to replenish.

Deals struck previously exempted the smaller British boats from the restrictions, a loophole French fishermen want to see closed and which led to deadlock in reaching an agreement earlier this year.

However any deal was to be "subject to a reasonable compensation package" for the smaller boats who were likely to lose out, according to a joint statement issued on Wednesday.

"In the meantime, there is a voluntary agreement for all UK vessels to respect the French closure period in the Baie de Seine," it had added.