French Trawler In Standoff With French Territtory In North Atlantic
ST. PIERRE, St. Pierre and Miquelon (AP) _ Local fishermen threatened to confront a large French trawler on the high seas Tuesday in a bitter dispute over fishing rights around this French territory off Canada’s Atlantic coast.
Yvon Dodeman, president of the fishermen’s union, told reporters a trawler from St. Pierre and Miquelon was called into port to prepare for action against the factory freezer trawler Grand Hermine.
The 6,000 people living on this rocky archipelago 10 miles south of Newfoundland rely almost entirely on fishing for their livelihood, with cod the main catch. A compromise last fall allowed one factory ship from France to fish in the zone, but the arrival of two touched off tensions once again.
The fishermen charge the factory ships take in too many fish and don’t provide any employment at the territory’s fish processing plants.
Michel Auzou, captain of the Grand Hermine, said his ship as well as the other trawler, the Coma Peche, will not move out of the fishing zone around the islands known as 3PS unless they are forced to.
″For a week now we’ve been insulted and attacked, we never once answered back,″ the captain said in an interview with French radio.
″It’s over now. We’ve been humble for too long,″ he said. ″We’re not leaving the zone now. The decision has been taken on both trawlers.″
He pointed out that French fishermen have been operating in the area for centuries.
Earlier in the day, St. Pierre Mayor Albert Penn said Paris officials agreed to move the Grand Hermine out of the zone so talks could begin between French Premier Michel Rocard and a delegation from the islands.
There was no immediate comment from the Paris government.
″The union will take action if the trawler doesn’t follow the government’s instructions,″ said Dodeman. ″They will prepare the boat to go against the Grand Hermine on the 3PS.″
Dodeman said it will take about six hours for the local trawler, Croix de Lorraine, to reach St. Pierre’s harbor.
He would not say what action the fishermen had in mind. In recent weeks some fishermen have threatened to ram the large factory freezer trawler or shoot the radar equipment on its bridge.
On Sunday, fishermen blocked planes carrying 60 French police reinforcements from landing.
More than 1,000 people turned out Monday night for a public meeting and voted to accept the French government’s offer for talks in Paris about fishing rights in the region.
Penn, who is also the territory’s senator to France’s Senate, said a delegation would go to Paris on condition the French government agrees to tie up one of the two trawlers at St. Pierre harbor.
Penn said the Paris government agreed Tuesday that a French naval tug anchored off St. Pierre will carry a local observer and stay with the trawler Grand Hermine to monitor it.
In St. John’s, Newfoundland, the two French military planes that had tried to bring in police reinforcements to St. Pierre and Miquelon on Sunday flew out Tuesday morning. Their flight plans were filed to Paris.
St. Pierre residents, some armed with rifles, surrounded one plane that landed Sunday but allowed it to take off after four hours. The second plane circled overhead before also flying to St. John’s.
Canada and France have a longstanding dispute over fishing quotas and the islands’ international boundary. Canada long has complained of French over- fishing.
Canada and France disagree over the international boundary of the islands and quotas for fish in nearby waters. France claims a 200-mile economic zone, but Canada recognizes only a 12-mile limit around the islands.