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    Scallops are stacked up on the dockside at Ouistreham, near Caen in northern France

    'Scallops War' is Latest Bizarre Conflict Triggered By Fish, Salt and Pastries

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    France has put its navy on standby to intervene to prevent more clashes between French and British fishermen hunting scallops off the Normandy coast. Sputnik looks at the history of conflicts which have broken out over foodstuffs.

    French Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert said on Tuesday, September 4, the French navy was "ready to intervene in case of clashes" after fishermen hurled stones and insults in the latest episode of the "Scallops War".

    French fishermen accuse the British of unfairly catching scallops in the Baie de Seine during the summer, when French boats are banned because of French regulations aimed at protecting shellfish stocks.

    Britain's junior agriculture and food minister George Eustice said on Wednesday, September 5, officials from the two countries were meeting later and he was confident there would not be further clashes.

    Baran-Rapan’s Glazed scallops with Indian cress and umami broth
    © Photo : Baran-Rapan
    Baran-Rapan’s Glazed scallops with Indian cress and umami broth

    Scallops are just the latest foodstuff to have triggered conflict.

    Cod Wars

    There were in fact three "cod wars" between Britain and Iceland.

    In the 1950s Britain was home to the biggest fishing fleet in the world — employing thousands of men — and trawlers from Grimsby, Fleetwood and Peterhead regularly headed north to the fertile seas off the southern coast of Iceland.

    In 1958 Iceland declared an Exclusive Economic Zone and tried to stop British trawlers from fishing off its coast.

    The dispute flared up again in 1972 and Royal Navy vessels were called in to protect fishermen from Icelandic gunboats who fired at trawlers and in one case towed it to a port in Iceland, impounded the cod and jailed the skipper for 30 days.

    In 1975 Iceland extended the EEZ to 200 miles, resulting in much uglier clashes.

    HMS Falmouth rammed the Icelandic gunboat Týr after it cut the nets of a British trawler. 

    But Iceland played its trump card — threatening to close a key NATO base — and the US exerted pressure on the British to acquiesce, which they did.

    Ironically the British Foreign Secretary, Tony Crosland, was also the Labour MP for Greater Grimsby and his "surrender" to Iceland was greeted with fury locally.

    In 1977 he died suddenly and at the by-election the Conservative vote in the previously safe Labour seat jumped by 13 percent and his successor, Austin Mitchell, only just managed to squeak in.

    Turbot War

    In 1995 a dispute broke out between Canada and Spain over turbot — a large saltwater flatfish prized by chefs.

    The Grand Banks, off the coast of Newfoundland, had for centuries been a plentiful supply of cod but by the 1980s it was exhausted and fishermen turned to Greenland turbot — known as halibut in the UK — but found themselves competing with Spanish huge trawlers which were capable of catching and freezing large amounts of fish.

    Canadian fishermen had been limited to a catch of 27,000 tons a year to ensure the Greenland turbot did not go the same way as the cod but EU trawlers were taking a further 50,000 tons. 

    On March 9, 1995 a Canadian air patrol plane spotted the factory-freezer trawler Estai in the Grand Banks.

    A Canadian coastguard ship confronted the Estai, whose captain ordered them to cut their own nets to get away.

    But another coastguard ship fired across its bows with a machine-gun and the Estai was eventually boarded and impounded at the port of St John's.

    A huge diplomatic row broke out with Britain and Ireland supporting Canada and most of the other EU countries supporting Spain.

    ​Eventually, on April 5, a negotiated settlement was reached under which Spain accepted its trawlers would not enter the disputed area and Canada agreed to refund the 500,000 Canadian dollar (US$380,000) which they had fined the owners of the Estai.

    Pastry War

    In 1838 a French pastry chef, claiming his shop in Mexico had been ruined by looting soldiers, appealed to the French King, Louis Philippe.

    France demanded 600,000 pesos (US$31,000) in damages and sent a fleet, which bombarded the Mexican fortress of San Juan de Ulua, near Veracruz.

    Mexico declared war on France and the legendary General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna — who had won the Battle of the Alamo two years before — came out of retirement and led Mexican forces against the occupying French in Veracruz.

    But in the end President Anastasio Bustamante agreed to pay the 600,000 pesos and the French withdrew.  

    The Pastry War claimed the lives of 95 Mexican soldiers and 32 Frenchmen and General Santa Anna had to have his leg amputated after he was wounded in a skirmish.

    Salt War

    In 1482 a war began in Italy which is usually known as the War of Ferrara, but is sometimes referred to as the Salt War.

    At the time Venice dominated trade in the Mediterranean and was the only port allowed to trade in salt. 

    ​But in the Italian city of Ferrara, the Duke, Ercole d'Este, decided he wanted to sell salt.

    The Doge of Venice, supported by Pope Sixtus IV, declared war on Ercole and Ferrara.

    Ercole eventually negotiated a treaty with the Venetians but the poor old Pope died of a heart attack after he was excluded from the peace treaty. 

    Pork War

    In 1906 tensions between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Serbia — which would later lead to the outbreak of the First World War — led to the Austrians closing its borders to Serbian pork imports.

    Serbia refused to bow to Austrian intimidation and tear up a customs union treaty with Bulgaria which had angered Vienna.

    Belgrade gained French investment in packing plants and pressured Bosnia for a trade outlet on the Adriatic.

    Russia supported Serbia and a full-blown war only averted in 1909 when Germany gave the Russians an ultimatum and forced the Serbians to agree a new commercial treaty with Austria-Hungary.

    But the tensions rumbled on until a certain Archduke rocked into Sarajevo in 1914.


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    scallops, net, fish, trawler, Royal Navy, Spain, Canada, United Kingdom, Iceland
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