A fisherman was attacked by an armada of French vessels after dredging for scallops in the Channel.

Kevin Loughran, skipper of the 23-metre scallop dredger the Vertrouwen, working out of Newhaven, said he was surrounded by seven or eight boats which attacked his ship following a dispute off Le Havre.

He said he had called for assistance after rocks and flares were allegedly fired at the boat, but when other British boats arrived they too were attacked.

“We were like sitting ducks,” said Mr Loughran. “Someone could have been killed.”

He added: “I’ve been at sea for 20 years and never seen anything like it. Our worry is if this all kicks off again then we’re not getting any help from anybody.

“Maybe we could have our own naval vessel to assist us if this should ever happen again.”

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) yesterday (October 11) said in total an estimated 40 French vessels and eight UK vessels were involved in Monday’s incident in scalloping grounds in the Bay de Seine.

French waters

British boats are entitled to fish in the area, 20 miles north west of Le Havre, even though it is in French waters.

The area had recently been closed off to French vessels by local authorities but was reopened on October 1, the spokeswoman said. UK boats were still entitled to enter the waters during the “closure” period.

The MMO spokeswoman said one reason the closure could have been put in place was so scallop stock levels could be replenished.

The situation was eventually defused after the MMO contacted the French authorities, who intervened.

Rod Henderson, head of coastal operations for the MMO, said: “As soon as the MMO was made aware of the situation, our officers contacted the French authorities and encouraged them to intervene. They did and are continuing to deal with this matter.

“It is the responsibility of the French authorities to ensure the safety of UK vessels in their waters. Had the situation occurred in UK waters, the Royal Navy would have responded.”

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