That Time France And Brazil Went To War Over Lobsters

Grace Higgins | August 7th, 2020

Once considered the rats of the sea, the lobster is now an expensive food item. Prices range from 12 to 30 dollars per pound depending on the quality. And believe it or not, these shelled creatures have even caused national security problems on several occasions. Though only once in history have two nations squared up to fight over the right to catch lobsters in their sea.

We are talking about the great lobster war of 1961 between France and Brazil. It started after some French fisherman had a very successful voyage fishing off the coast of Africa, and decided to push their luck to go West in search of lobsters. Their luck didn’t end, they set up their nets and started to pull up the spiny creatures by the boatload. But the activity did not go unnoticed by the local Brazilian fishers who feared they were going to be pushed out of their territory. The Brazilians filed an official government complaint then riled up the Navy into action.

Two corvettes went over to the French vessels and ordered them to move to deeper sea waters. This is where the arguments started. Brazil reasoned that lobsters crawled and as a result were part of South America’s continental shelf meaning that only Brazilians with their soil rights could catch them. The French said that was silly and lobsters swam, meaning they fell under the same international laws applied to other fish.

As a result, the French fishers called their government in for protection which caused the whole Brazilian fleet to be mobilized into action. President Charles de Gaulle felt insulted by this decision and sent a destroyer to the area to guard the fishermen along with air support. However, they were repelled from the area.

Joao Goulart gave the French 48 hours to get out of the region but the French navy simply ignored him. Thus started a three-year conflict of the Lobster War, hostilities peaked when a French vessel Cassiopee was captured. However, in the end, both parties decided it would be better to finish things in court before real damage happened. So they made up a legal agreement sets the rules for the contested territory which ended the Lobster War for good.

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