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U.S. Protests Blockage of Imported Fish

February 9, 1994

PARIS (AP) _ The U.S. Embassy has protested lengthy inspections that have effectively condemned tons of imported American fish to rot at an airport, an embassy official said Wednesday.

The government ordered the quality inspections to placate French fishermen, who staged violent demonstrations and raids on fish markets in the past week, demanding minimum price limits and curbs on non-European Union fish imports.

At Charles de Gaulle Airport north of Paris, about 70 tons of frozen fish, much of it from the United States, were spoiling as they awaited inspections Wednesday, said David Lennarz, export manager for the Virginia-based International Seafood Distributors, Inc.

″All our products are basically rotten at this point,″ Lennarz said in a telephone interview. French officials ″have not returned any test results for products that arrived 2 1/2 days ago.″

The California-based National Fisheries Institute, a trade association, said it sent a letter to U.S. trade negotiator Mickey Kantor, asking him ″to sanction the French government for their embargo of U.S. fish.″

The new French import control ″was imposed without warning and is causing significant losses to hundreds of U.S. fishermen and seafood plants throughout the United States,″ the letter said.

The U.S. Embassy has protested the inspection delays to the French government, said embassy spokesman Jerry Prillaman.

″We have contacted orally and in writing all ministries concerned to object to the blocking of the fish, and asking for its release,″ Prillaman said. ″We brought it up in a forceful way.″

There was no further comment Wednesday from French officials, who confirmed Tuesday that they were holding up tons of fish imports for the special checks.

The inspections were blocking fish from the United States, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Turkey and African countries.

France also said imported fish must conform to the minimum price set Friday by the European Union, which took the measure following an urgent request by Paris, under pressure from rioting fishermen.

Also Wednesday, in a stormy meeting that was to end the week-long strike, representatives of France’s fishermen decided to put the question to a full vote. Up to 5,000 fishermen across Brittany, by far France’s biggest fishing region, were to vote Thursday on whether to return to the sea.

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