Jersey fishermen are planning on taking legal action to challenge the island’s post-Brexit relationship with France.
The Jersey Fishermen’s Association believes that the parts of the UK/EU trade deal that relate to Jersey are discriminatory and also the boundaries of Jersey’s three-mile limit are mapped out incorrectly.
Association president Don Thompson said the need for a new agreement was even more important after the news that Jersey and the EU had agreed to an amnesty to allow the provisions of the trade deal to bed in.
It means that boats who had a licence under the old Bay of Granville Agreement will be able to fish in Jersey waters until the end of April.
This gives time for French fishermen to apply to Jersey a licence under the new criteria outlined in the trade deal, which includes providing evidence that the licence has been used recently. Jersey had initially proposed a bedding-in period but this was rejected by the EU for failing to satisfy "strict legal requirements."
However, it was reinstated after External Relations Minister Ian Gorst met the EU Commissioner for Fisheries on Monday.
Good call w/ @Ian_Gorst & positive outcome for fishermen/women!Political support to allow all vessels w/ GBA permits to fish in Jersey waters till end of April, pending TCA provisional application.— Virginijus Sinkevičius (@VSinkevicius) January 26, 2021
Meanwhile, all historic data will be sent to UK & full TCA licences issued asap.
This interim measure – designed to quieten voices of dissent in France – has been heavily criticised by Mr Thompson.
“This is just incredible bullying tactics used by the French and to see our Government capitulate to that and be subservient is shocking," he said.
“We have a fleet of relatively small boats that fish to demand so it’s a fairly sustainable model. The French, on the other hand, have really big boats, subsidised by the EU, which are capable of wiping out an area in a matter of weeks.
“They leave our grounds completely devastated. It looks like this amnesty will result in about 380 boats having access to our waters; in Jersey, we have around 50 full-time vessels and another 60- or 70 part-time ones. It’s totally unacceptable. It’s not even good news for the French who fish from nearby ports.”
Mr Thompson said the JFA was now considering using the courts to challenge the terms of the trade deal.
Pictured: The JFA believes that Jersey's three-mile limit - the inner broken line - should stretch from Jersey's reefs and not just from the main island.
“The Association has worked to represent our fleet for a very long time. We have never used legal assistance to get a result, instead preferring to work closely with ministers.
“However, we are now working with lawyers to try to establish if what Jersey is doing is discriminatory and against the terms of maritime law.
“It is just a desperate situation that we cannot allow to continue. We want to challenge elements of the agreement and particularly its discriminatory nature and the sovereignty of our offshore reefs.
“I cannot believe that the External Relations Minister has gone back on his word and allowed boats that do not have much record of fishing in our waters to have access. We shall see how it pans out: there are about 90 days left in the amnesty period and a lot can happen in that time.”
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