British fishermen were dredging for scallops in the English Channel when rocks were thrown at them from nearby French boats.
The provocation raises fears of battles among rival boats over resources as quota limits bite and declining stocks make fishing more difficult.
The British fishermen were dredging for scallops in an area west of Le Havre, a lucrative fishing ground when they were attacked with rocks thrown by nearby French boats, which attempted to block their path.
They called for help from the UK coastguard and Royal Navy, but were told that a French naval vessel would be sent. When it arrived, according to the men, the French authorities refused to intervene, angering the British fishermen and raising fears that a similar confrontation could happen again.
"We were like sitting ducks," said Kevin Loughran, skipper of the Vertrouwen, a 23-metre scallop dredger which was first to be attacked. "Someone could have been killed."