The Shoreham habour-based Cornelis Gert Jan was seized on Wednesday (October 27) after France said it was fishing without a licence.
The vessel’s Scottish operator, Macduff Shellfish, said: “On October 27th Macduff’s scallop vessel Cornelis was boarded by the French authorities and ordered into a French port while legally fishing for scallop in French waters.
“The UK scallop fleet is provided access to French waters under the Brexit Fisheries Agreement. Macduff’s fishing activity is entirely legal. It appears our vessel has been caught up in the ongoing dispute between the UK and France on the implementation of the Brexit Fishing Agreement.
“We are looking to the UK government to defend the rights of the UK fishing fleet and ensure that the fishing rights provided under the Brexit Fishing agreement are fully respected by the EU. We will vigorously defend ourselves against any claims.”
Sustainable fishing campaigners Open Seas said Cornelis Gert Jan was one of the world’s largest scallop dredgers so it was not surprising France was upset by its presence in what it described as ‘extremely damaging’ type of fishing. The 328-tonne boat is 117ft long – three times the length of an average British trawler.
Open Seas policy director Phil Taylor said he did not think the boat was operating illegally, but France may have acted in frustration at the scale of its dredging when its boats had been refused licences to fish in UK waters.
He said scallop dredging was not well regulated and there were no catch quotas.