Fish divide – and unite – Britain and France in the English Channel – –

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Fish divide – and unite – Britain and France in the English Channel – –


Cherbourg, France; and Brixham, England
Derek Meredith watches the calm, sunny waters of the English Channel, shaking his head. “It’s total anarchy there,” he says.

Mr Meredith is a British fisherman from Brixham, England, who searches for scallops near the French coast, and he says his boat has been regularly attacked by French vessels in recent years. He says he was the target of flares, stones and homemade incendiary bombs during clashes off the French port of Le Havre, where his trawler is often surrounded by a chain of French fishing boats “almost touching”.

On the Normandy coast across the Channel, Sophie and David Leroy manage five fishing trawlers through their company, Armement Cherbourgeois. And they also feel under siege. Over the past two years, they have found photos of their trawlers on social media posted by Brixham-based fishermen with black targets overlaid and the message ‘Sinking their boats’.

Why we wrote this

The disputes over Brexit pitted French and British fishermen against each other. But residents on both sides are fighting for the same thing: to save their coastal communities and local identities.

“I was shocked by the aggressiveness towards fishermen and women,” says Ms. Leroy, CEO of Armament Cherbourgeois, which contributes 60% of the fish supply in Cherbourg. She and her husband come from fishing families and have dedicated their lives to the industry. “They don’t realize that there are human lives at stake.”

The past year has been marked by violent clashes at sea between fishermen, first in the French port city of Boulogne-sur-Mer in April, then in the Channel Islands in May, as lawmakers prepared the arrangements. for 2021. The fishing industry was a major sticking point in Brexit talks, with British fishermen demanding free access to their own waters and the French claiming historic rights to British fishing grounds – where it is find the majority of fish.

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