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130 French boats can stay, 33 must go...Fishing talks come to a close

130 French boats can stay, 33 must go...Fishing talks come to a close

Saturday 11 December 2021

130 French boats can stay, 33 must go...Fishing talks come to a close

Saturday 11 December 2021


Five more French boats were granted permanent rights to fish in Jersey’s waters as “intensive” negotiations with the UK, EU and France came to a close last night.

It brings the total number of French vessels licensed to fish in the island’s territorial waters to 130, while 33 with temporary access will have to stop their activity by 31 January 2022.

Jersey’s Government says that it’s now ready to move on to the second part of the post-Brexit fishing licensing process: setting rules governing how French boats can fish, where and for how long.

EU Fisheries Commissioner Virginius Sinkevičius welcomed the licensing decision as an “important step in a long process”, but noted that the Commission and France would be examining the “legal circumstances around every licence request that has not been granted.”

Environment Minister Deputy John Young said that only “limited” data had previously been provided about the five vessels granted a licence last night, but that, “thanks to the cooperation between Jersey, the European Commission and UK Government, further data has now been received and the technical exercise can be brought to a conclusion.” 

“We can now begin the important work of progressing the nature and extent of fishing in our waters as set out in the TCA, including by these vessels; confirming what species fishermen are permitted to catch, the period they can do so, and the measures required to conserve our fish stocks,” he added.

The closure of this chapter follows months of tension with France.

When Jersey made its first licensing announcement back in May, it was met with fury from Norman and Breton fishers, who stormed St. Helier harbour in protests watched by French and UK Naval patrol vessels.

Meanwhile, France’s Maritime Minister Annick Girardin and European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune threatened the island’s electricity supply and suggested economic sanctions.

protestboat.jpg

Pictured: A French boat protesting at St. Helier harbour back in May.

Central to French ire were some of the conditions attached to the licences granted at the time. In response, Jersey’s Government decided to split the licensing process: first settling the question of how many French fishers should get a licence, before moving on to conditions for each vessel.

Island authorities originally said that vessels would be able to continue providing data to prove their fishing history until January, but the European Commission set a hard deadline to have the question of how many vessels should be able to continue fishing in UK and Jersey waters of midnight on Friday 10 December.

Discussions took place throughout this week, becoming more rigorous as the deadline approached last night.

External Relations Minister Senator Ian Gorst commented: “This technical process has been an intensive one, requiring close diplomatic cooperation between Jersey, the United Kingdom and European Commission. Ministers and officials have met regularly in recent days and had productive discussions with UK Secretary of State Eustice and European Commissioner Sinkevičius. As a result, we have been able to reach an evidence-based resolution that concludes our technical discussions." 

Jersey fishers are unlikely to welcome the latest announcement.

Yesterday, around 100 marched through town, demanding that Jersey’s Government “stop giving in to the French.”

They say they’re furious that they are continuing to face obstacles landing their catch in France, with scallop and whelk fishers unable to sell into the European market because their produce is deemed as being caught in ‘unclean’ waters. 

Rubens fishing protest.jpeg

Pictured: Jersey Fishing Association President Don Thompson led yesterdays protest march from the Steam Clock to the Royal Square.

However, the catch of French fishers catching exactly the same produce in the same Jersey waters can be landed, according to EU rules.

They also called out the disparity in the number of licences granted to Jersey vessels wishing to operate in French waters.

Eight applications have been advanced by the island’s Fisheries team – only one of which has been granted so far.

The Environment Minister said today that it was “important that we will see Jersey’s seven applications determined.”

Follow Express for updates…

Pictured top: Jersey fishermen protesting yesterday (inset), and the French protest in May.

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