The owners of the trawler seized in France have said its crew are in good spiritis amid the ongoing row over fishing rights.

Macduff Shellfish said the crew of its scallop vessel Cornelis Gert Jan are well and receiving legal advice after it was boarded by French authorities.

The 36 year old boat was seized yesterday and “ordered into a French port while legally fishing for scallop in French waters”, according to the firm.

Andrew Brown, director of sustainability and public affairs at Macduff, said: “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.

“The Cornelis does have catch aboard. This may be confiscated by the French authorities unless a speedy resolution is achieved.”

He added: “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. Our priority concern is for the welfare of the crew of the Cornelis.

“The crew are in good spirits and will remain on board the vessel until its release. The skipper has left the vessel to be interviewed by the French authorities and we have ensured that he has legal representation throughout these discussions." 

The UK Government has said it could retaliate against France for the seizure, with Environment Secretary George Eustice saying threats to block British boats from French ports and tighten checks appear to breach international law.

The UK will deliver an “appropriate and calibrated response” if France follows through with the measures, the Cabinet minister warned.

Mr Eustice also confirmed that his officials are “urgently” investigating reports that a British trawler has been detained off the coast of France as disputes about fishing rights continue.

Mr Eustice’s Cabinet colleague Priti Patel described the incident as “disappointing”.