An attempt to create a Marine National Park covering 36% of Jersey’s territorial waters has been rejected, after the move was branded as "green-washing."
The first debate of mammoth Bridging Island Plan, which is scheduled to last a fortnight, focused on a proposal by Senator Lyndon Farnham to expand areas already protected around Jersey and its reefs into a larger 900 km2 area.
However, while all Members who spoke during the debate supported greater protection of the marine environment, Senator Farnham’s plan failed because it was widely felt that creating a Marine National Park through a planning designation would be an empty gesture.
Further, the Environment and External Relations ministers warned that it could be counter-productive during unresolved and sensitive negotiations with the EU and France over fishing rights after Brexit.
Senator Farnham had presented his plan as a measure to provide “purpose and momentum” towards greater protection.
“Jersey has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to show leadership by creating a Marine National Park,” he said. “The States of Jersey has already made a strong commitment to marine protected areas, and marine habitats are already showing strong recovery.
"However, much of Jersey waters remain unprotected and these marine protected areas are not enough.”
Environment Minister John Young said he shared the Deputy Chief Minister’s aspirations but the way to protect habitats was through fisheries legislation.
“This is not a solution to put in the plan now and, if we did, we would saddle ourselves with problems,” he said. “The Island Plan controls development; it does not control fishing.”
Pictured: The dotted line shows the boundary of the proposed Marine National Park, which Members rejected.
External Relations Minister Ian Gorst added: “Fisheries management has to be based on methodology and the latest scientific evidence. We are 100% satisfied that we have appropriately licensed every vessel that has asked us to but the French administration is still not completely content.
“It would be completely inappropriate for us to agree to protect more areas because the French could argue that we are not applying powers given to us in the trade agreement in an even handed, fair and methodology-based approach. We cannot do anything to give succour to the French administration’s view of the world.
“This proposal has been made with the best will in the world but it could very easily be detrimental to Environment Minister’s ability to manage Jersey waters.”
The Attorney-General – the Assembly’s legal adviser – made an important intervention when he said that, if created, a Marine National Park would, in his opinion, infringe the provisions of the UK-EU trade deal.
After hearing this advice, Deputy Kirsten Morel said: "I share the vision that Senator Farnham has, and there is important symbolism to his proposal, but that is all.
"I think we would be voting for something that would be ‘greenwashing’, or ‘bluewashing’ in this case."
Members rejected the proposal by 14 votes to 27. They subsequently agreed to a plan by Deputy Young to come up with a ‘marine spatial plan’ for Jersey’s territorial waters by 2025. This will not only cover fishing but also set out policies around offshore renewable energy and carbon sequestration.
Senator Farnham had received strong support from conversation charity Blue Marine Foundation.
Photo credit top: James Bowden.
Express also took a dive into the idea of a new Marine Park with Blue Marine's Freddie Watson...
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