French fishermen threaten to block Channel Tunnel over European fish rights

French fishermen have threatened to block access to the Channel Tunnel and popular ports if the European Union allows more non-EU vessels to fish in French waters.

“If we don’t get our fishing rights, there will be a blockade,” said collective representative Alain Cailleur at the weekend protest, reported the Telegraph. “We are preparing the ports of Calais, Dunkirk and Nice in case we do have to block the access.”

French President François Hollande has agreed to discuss the fishermen’s fears over the exclusion of European vessels from French waters, reported the Wall Street Journal.

Efforts to regulate the EU’s common fishing zone along its frontier between Europe and North Africa, which stretch from the Horn of Africa to the Mediterranean Sea, have been the source of many tension between fishing and farming communities.

In March, France agreed to allow 28 European vessels to fish in its waters. Twelve of the vessels from Greenland and Iceland – which do not have fish quotas – were allowed to fish up to 40 miles from the coast of France. The rest were banned from fishing in French waters, but were allowed access to foreign waters adjacent to the coast.

Since then, the fishermen have launched a series of protests in Brittany, Hauts-de-France and Cherbourg demanding that EU fishing vessels be banned from their waters entirely, reported AP.

Manuel Valls, France’s premier, said last month that last year’s migration crisis had “woken up this country” and that greater control was needed over fishing around the French coast.

The union president of Dungeness Fish Market near Folkestone, in Kent, said it is already difficult to source European fish, reported the Local.

“It is a challenge to ensure our customers have access to the type of fish they want and need, because all the European markets are very selective,” Greg Anderson told the paper.

“We are having to go to Asia and the Far East, which are very insular when it comes to buying fish, to supply our customers. That’s the challenge that we face, because otherwise we would be inundated with European fish.”

Anger has also been directed at the EU for allowing people to travel from one country to another without checks.

Last week, France and Belgium blocked 17 migrants on a yacht from reaching the French coast after they overstayed their visas. The boat’s crew was intercepted by the coast guard after its signal was heard, with two young Bangladeshi migrants from an earlier vessel found on board.

Seafood industries across Europe say they are suffering after more than 40,000 migrants have landed in northern France in the past year.

In the most prominent example, 10 migrants died after clinging to a passing boat off the coast of northern France in October 2015.

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