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France/EU fishing quotas

French fishing boats blockade Channel ports

Article published on the 2009-04-15 Latest update 2009-04-16 08:21 TU

Stranded tourists look at French fishing boats that form part of a blockade at the Port of Calais(Photo: Reuters)

Stranded tourists look at French fishing boats that form part of a blockade at the Port of Calais
(Photo: Reuters)

Protesting French fishing boats blockaded all Channel ports for the second day running on Wednesday. Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Michel Barnier has promised to meet them on Thursday over their protests against European Union fishing quotas.

Port and transport authorities have confirmed that cross-Channel ferry and freight traffic has been halted, although the P&O ferry operator says that 3,000 passengers were able to make the crossing overnight.

Union representatives say that practically the whole of the area's 110-boat-strong fishing fleet is taking part in the action.

Barnier said Wednesday that he is ready to talk, although the government is only prepared to discuss giving financial aid to the fishermen and not their main demand, a reduction of EU fishing quotas.

"We don't need aid," Patrick Haezebrouck of the CGT union federation told the AFP news agency. "All we want is a new system for managing fisheries, with national or local quotas that allows us to survive, not this quota system for small-scale fishing that is unbearable. We want hard measures to ensure the survival of our kind of fishing."

The fishermen accuse the European Union of wanting to destroy small-scale fishing by imposing unrealistic quotas, notably on cod. They claim that Brussels is conspiring with Norway to favour its fish farms, for the sake of a contract to supply gas to the EU.

This year cod quotas have been divided into quarters, with 40 per cent in the first quota, according to the French Fisheries Ministry. Officials argue that fish stocks are declining dangerously and that there are too many fishing boats.

EU fisheries spokesperson Nathalie Charbonneau said that the protesters "should have started shouting before their ministers voted on quotas".