Scallop skirmish erupts between French, British boats

PARIS -- Fishermen from rival French and British fleets banged their boats in ill-tempered skirmishes this week over access to the scallop-rich waters off France's northern coast.

French maritime official Ingrid Parrot described the confrontation between 35 French boats and five British ones in international waters on Tuesday morning as "very dangerous," though there were no injuries.

Problems arise annually between French and British fishermen over access to scallops, she said, but it's usually without the violence that was captured over the weekend by a French TV crew. Their footage showed boats banging hulls and at least one firework rocket being launched.

British trade group South Western Fish Producers Organization accused French fishermen of putting lives at risk and said a window was smashed on one British boat and that another suffered fire damage from a flare.

French law prevents French boats from fishing for scallops during the summer months before Oct. 1, to help preserve the stocks, Parrot said. British ships can still fish for scallops in international waters off the French coast, leaving French crews to "feel that the resources are being pillaged...when they are preserving them," Parrot said.

European Union officials have called for negotiations to end the conflict.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.