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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2006, 10:21 GMT
Face-to-face talks in fishing row
Lobster pots
The skippers claim French trawlers have been fishing illegally
Fishermen on the east coast of Yorkshire are holding talks in London in a bid to resolve a bitter dispute with French trawler skippers.

The Bridlington-based lobster fishermen claim boats from Boulogne have been trawling their fishing grounds, destroying their lines of pots.

In September alone, they say the damage caused takings to drop by 130,000.

MEP Edward McMillan-Scott has set up a meeting with the French at the Marine Fisheries Agency in Whitehall.

Tuesday's talks will be attended by representatives from the port of Etaples, near Boulogne, where the trawlers allegedly responsible for the destruction are based, and the French fisheries department.

Government officials from Defra, the ministry responsible for fisheries, and leaders of British fishermen's associations will also be involved in the talks.

We do not think it will be an ideal solution, which would be for the French to leave the area and never come back
Steve Cowan, Bridlington and Flamborough Fishermen's Association chairman

The dispute, which began in June, has caused outrage in Bridlington, which is the UK's largest shellfish port, catching brown crab, velvet crab and lobster.

French trawlers are not allowed within 12 miles of the British coastline, but many of the British lobster pots are laid down outside the 12-mile limit.

The Bridlington skippers say there is an "unwritten rule" that trawlers do not fish across areas where shellfish pots are laid, which the French fishermen were ignoring.

They also claim some of the French boats have trawled illegally inside the 12-mile limit.

Steve Cowan, chairman of the Bridlington and Flamborough Fishermen's Association, said: "We are hoping we can get this resolved.

"We do not think it will be an ideal solution, which would be for the French to leave the area and never come back.

"We are hoping to come to an agreement under which we can work our pots and they can work their nets."

Meanwhile, Mr McMillan-Scott has also written to EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg asking for EU support but says he has yet to receive an official response.


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