Lobster War


January 24, 2022

The term lobster war (in Portuguese Guerra da Lagosta, in French Conflit de la langouste) indicates a diplomatic crisis that took place between 1961 and 1964 between Brazil and France, caused by the presence of French fishing boats dedicated to lobster fishing within Brazilian fishing waters.


Since the beginning of the 20th century, several European nations, including France, have invested in the development of infrastructures in Brazil in order to take advantage of the natural resources available. In the postwar period, a nationalist push led to strengthening the control of the Brazilian authorities over infrastructure: as a result, France requested international arbitration after its agreement was revoked in 1959. of Pernambuco grew considerably; for this reason, in March 1961, a French delegation obtained a concession of 180 days to allow three fishing boats to carry out searches in Brazilian waters. To verify the regularity of the operations, the Brazilian navy sent inspectors, who discovered that there were four fishing boats and that they were practicing trawling. Following this discovery, the concession was canceled and the French boats expelled by April.

The crisis

The situation was exacerbated when in November 1961 some French fishing boats began fishing for lobsters on the Brazilian continental shelf, outside the territorial waters of 12 nautical miles. A Brazilian ultimatum in which the government ordered French boats to withdraw within 48 hours was not received. As a result, on January 2, 1962, a fishing boat, the Cassiopée, was seized on the grounds that, under the 1958 Continental Shelf Convention, the lobsters lived on the seabed and were therefore owned by Brazil. In fact, the convention states that all the mineral and biological resources lying on the continental shelf belong to the opposite country. France responded by claiming that the lobsters swam and rested on the seabed only for short periods and that therefore they did not belong to the platform nor to Brazil. Overall, between January and August 1962, the French boats seized with their cargo were five.

Military escalation

At the beginning of 1963, France entered into negotiations while informing Brazil that several fishing boats were already en route to the coast of Pernambuco. On January 30, the Corvette Forte de Coimbra intercepted three which, following the authorization of the Brazilian navy to use force, withdrew. On February 5, President João Goulart granted the release of the seized boats and goods and the fishing license to six vessels: this provoked such an adverse public reaction that the president was forced to revoke his decision, causing a response from France. On 11 February a task force of the French navy left Toulon for the Ivory Coast; one of these ships, the escorteur d'escadre Tartu, separated from the rest of the team in Dakar to head to Brazil in order to control the movements of the French fishing boats and to protect them from Brazilian actions. In response, the Brazilian government mobilized several ships to Pernambuco and deployed departments of the Força Aérea Brasileira in Natal and Recife. they were undergoing maintenance or were waiting to enter, a submarine was in no condition to navigate and there was a lack of rescue equipment on the ships; moreover, since the mobilization took place the day before carnival, many men were out of service. In addition to this, the United States demanded the withdrawal of the navs

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