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"Fishermen will be penalised on both sides"

Tuesday 09 November 2021

"Fishermen will be penalised on both sides"


A French scallop diver left in financial distress after being refused a fishing licence is calling for the end of the "ego contest" between France, the UK and Jersey, saying it is harming fishermen on both sides of the Channel.

Julien Camus (40), who set up a fishing company in Saint Malo with one of his friends 18 months ago, was denied a licence earlier this year.

His licence was one of several whose refusal prompted a fishing row between France and Jersey, which is yet to be resolved.

Talks took place between UK and EU Ministers last Friday but no decision was reached

Mr Camus, who specialises in “artisanal” fishing, hand-dived scallops, said he had hoped he would be granted a licence.  

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Pictured: Mr Camu' business is based in St. Malo.

He explained he had bought a boat from another fisherman who had a permit to fish under the Granville Bay Agreement in 2017 and the following years. 

"That licence is now null and void, which means I can’t fish anymore, and my boat doesn’t have the same value anymore so I can’t sell it on. It’s a lose-lose situation," he said. 

"We gave the fishing records of the different owners of the boat in Jersey waters since 2017, when the permit under the Granville Bay Agreement allowed access to French and British waters.

“We had proof of the permit from 2017 and the following years. However, the former owner hadn’t specified the days when he was fishing in British or French waters as it needed to be specified with two letters.”

Given his method of fishing, Mr Camus and his business partner, for whom fishing is also a passion, were surprised not to receive a licence. He explained he only fishes a small volume and never came across a Jersey boat where he fishes, in the south of the Plateau des Minquiers, apart from Jersey Fisheries.

“We are not treading on anybody’s toes,” he said.

“We thought we would be eligible for a temporary licence given our file, where we fish and our method,” he added. “We thought we would at least have a small chance.” 

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Pictured: Mr Camus, who specialises in an “artisanal” way of fishing, hand-dived scallops.

Mr Camus added that he only fishes in Jersey two months a year, in October and November. He sometimes also fishes between December and May if the weather is nice and it is safe for him to go out to sea.

As he has been unable to fish in Jersey this year, his only employee has had to be on “stand-by” and, if the situation isn’t resolved, he explained, he will have to shut down his business.

“With the remaining five months, I can’t afford my bank loans, I’m losing out on too much,” he said. “Being denied access has affected us a lot and the business is compromised,” he explained.

“My boat is docked. There are two of us in the company, if we don’t go fishing, we don’t have any revenue, but our bank loans do not wait.”

But, beyond the impact it has had on him personally, Mr Camus said the dispute was “dramatic” for the fishing community as a whole, referring to the restrictions France is considering imposing on the Jersey fishermen he calls “neighbours”.

“It’s a real pity,” he said. “I’m sad for Jersey fishermen because 75% of their sales are in France, their ports of reference are in France and they are going to be forced to go through new logistics so that they can import their products.

“It pains me that we are going to block Jersey fishermen from the ports. It’s a bad situation for everyone. We want to go back to when everyone was able to fish and there were no ego contests.

“The customer needs the produce and fishermen need to land it. If we add more logistics, we are going to loose out on the freshness and the carbon footprint will increase."

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Pictured: The French Minister for the Sea threatened to cut the supply of energy to Jersey earlier this year.

Mr Camus also said he hadn’t been impressed by the threats put forward by the French Government and called for a prompt resolution for the good of everyone

“It feels like we are in a playground,” he said. “The threats about energy are ridiculous, all it did was bring fishing back into the negotiations, but it should have been negotiated back in June.”

“We don’t want to fall out with Jersey,” Mr Camus added. “Since the beginning, everything had been going so well with the Government of Jersey. It was all really smooth, we had really cordial discussions. I only just recently bought a diving licence from them. 

“I would love so much to be able to continue. There’s nothing we can do at the moment, we are stuck on all fronts. I don’t want to remain docked, I want to be able to fish. We would love to go back at sea, we need to access Jersey waters.

“We want to go back to the relationship we had before and resume our lives as fishermen. Fishermen will be penalised on both sides. We just want to go back at sea with our colleagues, we are all suffering from this.”

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Posted by Guy de Faye on
This report underlines the folly of letting the UK overturn long standing understandings of Jersey's autonomy, allowing UK officials to handle fishing negotiations for Jersey with a poor comprehension of local circumstances.

Julien Camus is one of a small group of French fishermen that Jersey might be prepared to encourage in the future.
Based in St Malo, he operates from a Bay of Granville port and not from further afield.
Diving for scallops is environmentally friendly, as opposed to dredging.
Clearly M. Camus should have anticipated Withdrawal Agreement changes prior to setting up his business, but that process itself raises the question of whether the transfer of Jersey fishing licences should go with the vessel or the vessel owner, together with any stipulations on the port of operation.

It is damaging bottom trawling that should be banned in Jersey's fishing grounds as a first step, not diving.

The Environment Minister has advised the States Assembly that licences granted to French boats cannot be withdrawn, irrespective of any retaliatory measures.
However, one year in, it is not clear whether existing licences are permanently unrestricted and what measures may be introduced from next year to protect Jersey's fishing stocks.and marine ecology for the future.

It really is time for the Government of Jersey to raise its game, especially in respect of a traditional Jersey industry. The threats from France will not be going away any time soon.
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