French fishermen are due to decide on Thursday morning whether to maintain their blockade of Channel ports, a day after the government offered them four million euros in aid but said it was powerless to change EU quotas for catches.
AFP - France announced Wednesday four million euros (5.3 million dollars) in aid to fishermen in the north of France, but no changes to EU quotas, amid an ongoing blockade of Channel ports.
The proposal was set out by Fisheries Minister Michel Barnier after four hours of talks with a dozen representatives of fishermen in the Nord/Pas-de-Calais region.
The representatives of fishermen from the ports of Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk announced after the meeting that they would continue the blockade pending consultations with their members on Thursday, with most saying they were "disappointed" that they had not obtained an increase in catch quotas.
The minister told a press conference that the funds, to be made available by June 30, would cover a temporary halt to fishing in the zone by boats nearing the limits of their quotas.
While European Union fishing quotas would not be changed in 2009, as the European Commission was opposed, Barnier said he would be holding a meeting "in a fortnight" with EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg.
Barnier added, however, that a court-ordered lifting of the blockade of the busy Channel ferry ports of Calais and Boulogne over EU fishing quotas was "the responsibility of the fishermen" themselves.
He also announced loans of up to 50 million euros that would be made available to indebted fishing companies.
Before Wednesday's meeting the fishermen's representatives had said they were determined to obtain extra quotas for cod and sole, adding that they did "not want money."
A French court Wednesday ordered the fishing fleets to lift their blockade of Boulogne and Calais or face heavy fines for each hour of lost business for the ports, according to a lawyer acting for French and British ferry companies.
Some 500 independent fishermen, who say their livelihood is under threat from European Union limits on their catch, have stopped ships entering or leaving Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk since Tuesday.
Date created : 2009-04-16