Fishermen from both sides hurled stones and insults while some of the boats also rammed each other, and flares were set off, according to video footage
British fishermen called on their government Thursday to offer greater protection after they clashed dramatically with French fishing fleets over scallops in the English Channel this week.
A years-long dispute over the prized shellfish boiled over early Tuesday when five heavily-outnumbered British boats sparred with dozens of French vessels in waters near France.
Fishermen from both sides hurled stones and insults while some of the boats also rammed each other, and flares were set off, according to video footage.
Andrew Mcleod, 49, who captains a trawler based in Brixham, in southwest England -- where two of the boats involved in the fracas sail from -- said the incident would not deter British vessels from fishing there.
"I'd like to see the government take a firmer stance with the French regarding the actions of their boats," he said.
Describing the violence witnessed this week as "standard French tactics", he recounted having "rocks and (metal) shackles thrown at us before" while fishing off the French coast.
A petition launched Wednesday on Change.org "to help the Brixham fishermen to get naval protection against the French" attracted nearly 1,000 signatures by Thursday.
"If you do not help, the fishermen's lives and livelihoods are in danger," it said.
Meanwhile officials in French fishing ports on Thursday expressed fears the violence could be repeated elsewhere.
Laurent Jacques, the mayor of Le Treport in Normandy, said: "My fear is that this will happen again soon because everyone is very angry," he warned.
'Fishing entirely legally'
The skirmish took place in the scallop-rich waters of the Baie de Seine area of Normandy, more than 12 nautical miles out to sea where the British are legally allowed to fish all year round.
French fleets are restricted to fishing for scallops between October 1 and May 15 to allow stocks to replenish
They have accused the British of depleting them and want the same rules applied.
Tensions have spiked this year after negotiations between the two countries' scallop industries broke down without a deal to limit summer fishing.
Agreements had been struck in recent years limiting British vessels over 15 metres from entering French waters closed to their own fleets.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove, whose father was a fisherman in Scotland, said he sympathized with British vessels "caught up in the terrible scenes".
"They were fishing entirely legally, they had every right to be in those waters and we talked to the French authorities in order to ensure that we have a protocol," he said.
Pro-Brexit lawmakers critical of the European Union's Common Fisheries Policy seized on the incident.
"Shocking violence... remember UK boats wouldn't have to go outside our waters if they had fair share of our own resources," Conservative MP Owen Paterson said on Twitter.
The European Commission on Wednesday urged France and Britain to find an "amicable" solution, but insisted it could not get involved because arrangements for trawling were made between individual countries.