Two crew members of a fishing boat previously attacked in the English Channel ‘scallop wars’ were missing on Saturday night after the vessel sank.

HM Coastguard scrambled a search and rescue helicopter after receiving a distress beacon from fishing vessel Joanna C at 6am.  

The beacon’s signal put the vessel three nautical miles off the coast of Seaford, near Newhaven.  

One man, believed to be the boat’s skipper, was rescued after he was found clinging to a buoy.

Two other crew members remain unaccounted for after a desperate search by the Coastguard and two RNLI lifeboats.

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 but the intensive air and sea search for the two missing crew continues.

"Debris has been located close to the location of the EPIRB alert location but no life raft has been found as yet."

The RNLI severn class Lifeboat head to Newhaven harbour after searching for the missing two fishermen that went missing near Seaford, Sussex, when their fishing boat, Joanna C, sank off the coast near Seaford, East Sussex on Saturday.

Credit: Steve Parsons 

The 45ft scalloping vessel, owned by Derek Meredith and skippered by Nathan Clark, was bombarded with flares and stones in an ugly standoff with French fishermen in 2018.

Mr Meredith called for the military to step in after the altercation almost sank two of his boats and left his crew badly shaken. 

It came after a similar attack in 2015 when those aboard the Joanna C were pelted with iron shackles and surrounded by 20 French boats. 

The ongoing fishing dispute known as the ‘scallop wars’ escalated last month when French trawlers attacked British boats with flares and frying pans. 

British vessels are allowed to fish in scallop-rich waters of the Channel, a bone of contention with French fishermen who blame them for depleting stocks. 

In August around 40 French boats gathered in a protest over British ‘pillaging’ of scallops.

English fishermen were chased from the area after their French counterparts threw smoke bombs and hurled insults at them. 

Joanna C underwent extensive renovation last year after its engine failed and it was remodelled to allow it to stay at sea for up to a week.