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“Frank” discussions calm French fishing anger as key decision looms

“Frank” discussions calm French fishing anger as key decision looms

Friday 24 September 2021

“Frank” discussions calm French fishing anger as key decision looms


French officials say they are expecting "significant progress" when Jersey makes its hotly anticipated announcement on fishing licences next week after a "very frank exchange of views" at a key meeting with Jersey Ministers today.

Held on the island, the Normandy Summit brought Jersey’s Chief Minister, External Relations Minister and Home Affairs Minister face-to-face with the Presidents of the La Manche and Normandy regions, Jean Morin and Hervé Morin, as well as other French officials.

Held every autumn, the summit is not designed to focus solely on fishing, but it was nonetheless the "difficult" issue that dominated today's discussions, taking place four months after French fishers stormed St. Helier harbour in protest at Jersey's post-Brexit fishing licence regime.

While both regional French Presidents seemed satisfied with the outcome of the discussions and expressed confidence in their Jersey counterparts, Hervé Morin - who was behind the retaliatory decision to close the Maison de Normandie et de la Manche in Halkett Place in May - said he wouldn't be totally won over until next week's licence announcement.

"...Seeing is believing and I am waiting to see," he commented.

Shortly after the summit, Jersey's Government said that new licences for smaller vessels will come into effect 30 days after being issued, with the current transitional arrangements continuing until then. 

47 licences were issued, to boats with VMS satellite tracking technology, in the first tranche earlier this year. The transitional period was extended until the end of September for other, mainly smaller, boats to allow time for more data to be submitted. 

The Government said that further evidence of fishing track records had been received in recent weeks. There are a small number of vessels for which evidence is still being reviewed, and therefore an announcement on licensing decisions will be made next week.

Those vessels that could qualify, if they were to submit a little more information, will be given a temporary licence and have until 31 January 2022 to provide it. All unlicensed vessels will have to stop fishing in Jersey waters 30 days from next week’s announcement. 

Hervé Morin said he had left home earlier this morning wondering “who was playing what game” and that the benefit of the summit had been the opportunity to “say things frankly and in all transparency to each other”. 

“We reminded our CI friends that this is an iconic issue and evocative issue for us and of course the same applies in the Channel Islands,” he said. 

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Pictured: Jean Morin (second from right) and Hervé Morin took part in a press conference with States of Guernsey External Relations Lead Deputy Jonathon Le Tocq, and Jersey's External Relations Minister Senator Ian Gorst, and Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondré.

With the risk of “an escalation of this conflict”, he said it was important for everyone to make an effort - which for the French meant supplying the information required.

“At the same time, our friends in Jersey in particular need to have some understanding in terms of our position,” he added. “So, for example, if a fisherman bought a boat a few years ago under certain regulations and now finds himself with a slightly larger boat but a whole other set of rules under Brexit, we have to have some understanding in situations like these. 

“We can also imagine the case of somebody who traditionally fished there but perhaps not in the particular period under consideration. The rules are important, but you also need to have some flexibility in how we understand and apply them.”

“Sometimes I felt we were simply going round in circles, but my takeaway from this summit is that our friends in the CI are trying very hard to find a solution,” he continued. “But seeing is believing and I am waiting to see.”

During the summit, Jean Morin said he had shared concerns about the “agitation” within the fishing community, particularly in the Manche and Normandie area, referring to demonstrations taking place in Cherbourg and Le Havre today, which he described as “quite assertive”.

Fishing crisis.jpeg

Pictured: Mr Morin said he was concerned a further postponement could lead to another protest. 

He said he had previously voiced concerns with the Government about the impact of a further postponement. 

“We could see something along the lines of what happened on 6 May if not more violent, and this is a serious concern for us because the fishing industry is keen, very impatient, to see a solution arrive,” he said.

“We’ve had frank exchange of views, whilst also courteous, but we’ve clearly stated the issues and the solutions we feel need to be found quickly. There are also national issues because both Normandy and Manche are both part of France, and the French fisheries minister has made it very clear that the desire of the French government is to find an overall solution. 

“I said that a case-by-case approach didn’t seem to provide an easy solution and I want to repeat that our colleagues, our friends, have evidently shown a lot of goodwill and that they have shown they want to make progress in that direction, we will see the outcome of their reflexion next week but we are expecting significant progress on that.”

Jersey's External Relations Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, declined to confirm whether the Government would grant French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin's request for licences to be issued to 169 out of the 175 boats featured on a list given in June.

“We did discuss at a very high level some numbers, but they will not be confirmed until next week,” he said. 

“I would like to pay tribute to the two presidents on this panel today for their support and their effort and intervention who are helping us make positive progress and we are extremely grateful to them for that.”

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