TWO fishermen are missing and one has been pulled from the sea off East Sussex after a ‘scallop war’ boat sank early this morning.
Coastguard officials scrambled a search and rescue helicopter after a distress beacon was fired from fishing vessel Joanna C at 6am.
The Joanna C was previously involved in the scallop wars, a long-standing dispute between Brit and French fishermen that has seen UK vessels surrounded and rammed, while flares were allegedly thrown.
During the drama this morning, two RNLI lifeboats in Newhaven and Eastbourne were launched in a bid to track down the missing boat.
The beacon’s signal put the vessel three nautical miles off the coast of Seaford, near Newhaven.
In an update at 10.30am, HM Coastguard said one man had been rescued from the water by the Newhaven RNLI lifeboat and has been transferred to hospital.
He was found clinging to a lifebuoy.
But searches continue for two missing crewmen.
The Joanna C is a 45ft scalloping vessel registered in Brixham, the Coastguard said, and three people were aboard when it sank.
As well as the RNLI lifeboats, the Birling Gap Coastguard Rescue Team is checking for sightings from the shore.
Another fishing vessel close to the area is also helping with the search.
HM Coastguard controller Piers Stanbury said: “Thankfully, one of the three people on board at the time of sinking has been pulled out of the water and brought to shore by the Newhaven RNLI lifeboat.
“However, the intensive air and sea search for the two missing crew continues.
“Debris has been located close to the location of the alert location but no life raft has been found as yet.”
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Maria Caulfield, MP for Lewes, called the new “heartbreaking”.
The scallop wars broke out in 2012 and 2018 after British craft legally fished for scallops in an area of water that the French were temporary banned from using.
French fishers are not permitted to hunt between May 15 and October 1 each year, but their UK counterparts are allowed to fish year round.