2nd April 1993

A French fisherman is arrested and escorted to St Peter Port

Tensions were running high in the waters surrounding the Channel Islands. It was 1993, and French fishermen were entering the six-mile limit around the islands in which only British boats were allowed to operate. Things came to a head when a British boarding party took over a French trawler on 2 April. Once aboard, they arrested the skipper.

The boat in question was La Calypso, and the skipper was Michel Mesnage. As reported by The Independent of 3 April 1993,

officers [had previously] boarded La Calypso because it was suspected of fishing within the limit. Mr Mesnage allegedly refused to dock in St Peter Port and took three officers to Cherbourg. They were later returned unharmed to the Brocklesby.

On this second occasion, the Ministry of Defence had sent a dozen Royal Marines to Guernsey to accompany the boarding parties and Mesnage was taken to Guernsey for questioning. They arrived in St Peter Port at 4pm on 2 April.

The British and French governments seemingly had no disagreement between themselves over the rights and wrongs of the fishing dispute. France agreed with the UK that French fishermen shouldn’t be so close to the Channel Islands. The French fishermen themselves didn’t have any problems with the Channel Islands fishermen, either. Some did believe that the Marines were causing trouble, though.

Mesnage, charged with illegal fishing and disobeying orders from a fisheries protection officer, appeared in court on 5 April. The French fishermen warned Guernsey’s fishermen not to come to Cherbourg. However, as The Guardian reported on the day of the appearance,

[Three Guernsey fishing boats] docked peacefully at the French port and were expected to unload their catches later today… The French police said ‘they have arrived as normal and everything is quiet’.

Many of the fishermen were unaware of the root of the dispute but, as the same article in The Guardian explained,

An agreement between the French and British government which came into force six months ago limits French fishing in the disputed Schole Bank area to a handful of named vessels. But fishermen at St Peter Port said yesterday they had no objections to the French continuing to work there. Some were unaware of the terms of the agreement before negotiations with the French fishermen in St Peter Port last Monday. The talks came after almost 40 French trawlers arrived in Guernsey last Monday threatening a blockade because of the Schole Bank row.

Mesnage was ultimately fined £3750 and allowed to return to Cherbourg.


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Other events that occured in April