The “final jigsaw piece” in the long-running and, at times, acrimonious fishing dispute was put into place yesterday as politicians approved a policy for when French vessels holding a Jersey licence are replaced.
Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf said the introduction of a policy – which caps the overall tonnage and engine power of French boats allowed to work in Jersey’s territorial waters – was “the start of a new era” for fisheries management.
Following Brexit, Jersey now has full control of its 770 sq miles of waters for the first time in living memory.
136 French boats now hold a licence to fish in them – 108 under 12m in length and 28 over.
Last Wednesday, conditions were attached to those licences for the first time, setting limits on what species the vessel can catch, what type of gear it can use and how much it can catch.
Alongside the introduction of conditions over ‘nature and nature’ – which were set out in a trade agreement signed between the UK and EU – Jersey also had to update its vessel replacement policy.
After hearing concerns of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, Scrutiny had some concerns about the proposed policy – especially over how it could be enforced and how the French might be able to introduce larger and more efficient boats while still staying within its terms.
However, Deputy Renouf assured Members on Tuesday that the policy, while offering some flexibility for vessels to increase in power and tonnage, would not lead to an overall larger fleet.
He added that it mirrored the policies set by the UK and Guernsey, and the trade agreement also gave him additional powers to prevent Jersey’s waters from being over-fished and protect sensitive areas.
The minister also committed to work with Scrutiny to review the effectiveness of the policy once it had been in place for a while.
The policy had already been approved in principle at the last States sitting but, on Tuesday, the details of the regulations were passed by 34 votes to nine, with members of the Reform Party rejecting them en bloc.
Neither 'extent and nature' licence conditions nor the vessel replacement policy applies to Jersey boats.
Deputy Renouf said that the new rules were good news for local fishermen because the Government could now keep a closer eye on the activities of French vessels.
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