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Falmouth skipper caught up in 'scallop war' clash

By West Briton  |  Posted: October 18, 2012

  • Fisherman Mark Powell and his Vessel Golden Fleece. Mark Powell with Golden Fleece Pic: Toby Weller Ref: TRTW20121016B-003_C

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A FALMOUTH fisherman has spoken of his shock after being caught up in an international incident involving claims of an attack by a French fleet.

Skipper Mark Powell and the three crew on board the Golden Fleece were among several vessels surrounded by 40 French boats.

The fisherman said they were pelted with bricks and flares, had ropes thrown towards their propellers in an attempt to cause damage and had vessels try to ram them in the "dangerous" encounter off the coast of France.

Mr Powell, 43, who owns the Golden Fleece with his dad, Clinton, said: "It was pretty nasty. The worrying part was there didn't seem to be any reaction from the police or French Navy.

"I saw a police boat and called them saying I was being harassed, but they didn't answer.

"If this had happened off the British coast the coastguard would have reacted immediately.

"But they left us to protect ourselves. It was ridiculous and so dangerous."

He said a small number of boats "attempted to ram" his 48ft vessel, only turning away at the last minute.

"Then they started throwing ropes to try and foul my propeller," he said. "It was all pre-organised. We decided to pull all our gear onto the boat as we didn't want to be hindered by it. It was unbelievable.

"It's a ten-hour trip to get back to the English coast. I did not want to do that with a fouled propeller or under tow."

He said he ended up having to request protection from a larger Brixham boat, which he "stayed very close to until things calmed down" several hours later when a television crew arrived.

"I have never experienced anything like this before. I have worked the Channel before, but it's the first time I have been off the French coast.

"It won't put me off going back though and hopefully there will be repercussions for the French fishermen."

Fishing groups in the region said the Government has failed to help secure adequate quotas and days at sea in a dispute over lucrative scallop beds.

The fishing minister is said to be monitoring the situation very closely and there are calls for the French to investigate the incident thoroughly.

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