A distress flare is let off by one fisherman. He's not lost at sea, but stranded on land, unable to do his work because of high fuel prices.
We are outside the Flemish Parliament in Brussels, where a demonstration has reconvened after an initial protest outside the European Council building. Orange smoke drifts across the square, and an angry demonstrator kicks a large empty can of oil.
One man tells me: "The problem is the fuel prices are too high and the fish prices are too low. The European Union won't do anything because they want to cut the fleet by 40%. They say 'in a natural way'. They mean everybody's going to go broke."
Another man, a fisherman from Poland, interrupts. "Fuel prices are too high. They will destroy everything. The system is not good, it will destroy fishermen, lorry drivers, everyone. Because fuel is the most important power in life."
It's the same story right across Europe.
All week there have been blockades in France. Twenty tons of free fish were handed out by protesters in Madrid. In Italy and Portugal they are on strike too.
Fishermen are not the only ones. In Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands dairy farmers are on strike, partly against changes to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which they say means more milk on the market. But their basic complaint is the same as the fishermen: not enough profit and too high energy costs.
All over Europe governments have cause to be worried.
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy has already suggested the EU should change policy to allow a cut in VAT on fuel. But the European Commission is unimpressed. The energy commissioner's spokesman Ferran Tarradellas Espuny tells me "oil is a source of energy that is going to run out sooner or later, demand is growing and production is falling, so prices will continue to go up.
"We have to move away from that, promoting energy efficiency, renewable energy, clean coal, nuclear for member states that choose that."
And he rejects the idea of any tax cuts. "We think this would not be a good idea. It would be very wrong that our tax policy should be based on the fluctuations of a commodity that is not produced in Europe."
The commission is often mocked for being unelected, but this unenviable status does mean that officials can be more frank and more brutal than politicians who are at the mercy of their voters.
But those politicians have not heard the last of those fishermen: they vow to be back in Brussels later this month when presidents and prime ministers gather here for their summer summit. Expect more distress flares.