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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 December, 2003, 18:28 GMT
Blockade on port of Calais lifted
A P&O ferry
Cross-channel ferry services have been cancelled
French fishermen have lifted their blockade of the port of Calais.

Their action was part of a wider protest by EU trawlers who are opposing plans to cut fishing quotas.

The blockade disrupted cross-channel ferry services for several hours and will cost the UK transport industry more than 1m.

Dover-Calais ferry operators P&O and SeaFrance were forced to cancel more than 40 sailings.

I have two daughters, so at least I don't have the worry that my sons have no industry to go into
Bob Casson
Fishermen's delegate

P&O Ferries was able to operate four "mini cruise" sailings that reached French territorial waters but could not dock.

P&O also managed to get two freight-only vessels into Calais as the blockade, which began at 0730 GMT, eased in early afternoon before being called off around 90 minutes before the expected time of 1600 GMT.

The Freight Transport Association's external affairs director Geoff Dossetter added: "The cancellation of ferries and the stranding of lorries in Dover waiting to get to France, and in Calais waiting to get to the UK, means a cost of over 1m to the UK industry alone.

"To this must be added the cost of other nations' vehicles, plus the pain and outrage of thousands of day trippers hoping to make shopping trips to France."

'Unjustified'

The protest comes ahead of negotiations being held at the European Commission (EC) next week, to determine the level of permitted fishing in 2004.

Protesters fear the annual negotiations between the EC and the member states could lead to serious cuts in the fishing fleet, if plans to cut quotas to protect stocks go ahead.

Trawlers also blocked the ports of Le Havre, Dunkirk, Boulogne and Cherbourg for several hours and Marseille and Martigues were brought to a halt.

A collection of fishermen called the European Fishing Action Group (EFAG) organised the action. British fishermen also joined another demonstration at Antwerp, in Belgium.

Doug Beveridge, assistant chief executive of the National Federation of Fisherman's Organisations - a member of EFAG - said the Antwerp protest was the result of massive co-ordination between European fishermen.

The EC has stopped short of recommending a total ban on cod fishing in the North Sea, Irish Sea and off the west coast of Scotland, despite the advice of experts.

But fisherman say existing recovery programmes, introduced in 2000, should be given more time to work before more cutbacks are considered.

"We share the Commission's objective of managing the fish stocks on a sustainable basis, but absolutely reject both its chosen instruments and its unrealistic time-scale for recovery," said an EFAG spokesman.


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The BBC's Robert Hall
"Hardly dramatic, but effective nonetheless"



SEE ALSO:
Q&A: More fishing cuts loom
10 Dec 03  |  Science/Nature
Ferry operator P&O cuts 500 jobs
18 Nov 03  |  Business


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