Barracuda Protest May Stall Gateway to France From England

French fishermen on Thursday threatened to block the Channel Tunnel in protest against the government’s lack of access to an advanced fishing system to catch barracuda, weighing scales, gillnets and hulking nets.

The protest is another obstacle to a July 1 opening of the cross-Channel superhighway linking England and France.

Hundreds of fishermen filled streets and squares Wednesday in southern Brittany, calling for better access to France’s fish catch and protesting that their current licenses allow them to catch only the species of barracuda that can be legally caught in France — while also receiving European subsidies on legal catches of species they cannot legally catch at sea.

Negotiations between the government and representatives of the fishing lobby are ongoing, and FGTB Secretary General Olivier Damiet said late Wednesday that they could result in a change in license terms that would allow them access to the fish they want.

“We’ve had wonderful meetings with the authorities, with French ministers (and) foreign ministers,” he said, adding that the French government was worried about safety for workers entering the Mediterranean Sea.

But Damiet said the fishing association wants “a first look at the catch size at sea … and also access to a deeper ocean. This summer, hopefully, we’ll be able to meet to reach an agreement. Otherwise we will take further action.”

French President Emmanuel Macron won the presidency on a platform that saw his government crack down on welfare fraud. But he has been going back on promises to French fishermen in the past week.

He already publicly sparred with fishermen over a broken-down oil pipeline and forgot to attend a May Day fishing protest to appease the industry that saw tensions flare amid protests and strikes.

The government says it supports renewing licenses for French fishermen, and has increased their financial support. But it has not made new licenses available.

The protest comes just weeks before the Euro 2020 football championship is set to open with a match between France and Spain in Lille, northern France.

Tensions have spiked after France was nearly kicked out of the tournament following a riot at a stadium near Paris.

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