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French Minister urges EU to cancel Jersey's new fishing regime

French Minister urges EU to cancel Jersey's new fishing regime

Wednesday 12 May 2021

French Minister urges EU to cancel Jersey's new fishing regime

France's Maritime Minister is calling for Jersey’s new regime for controlling its waters to be suspended until the end of September - and wants the island to stop speaking to French fishermen directly.

In a letter to EU Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius, Annick Girardin also calls for a new mechanism to be set up, made up of local government officials and scientists, to assess if Jersey’s waters are overfished.

Mme. Girardin, who last week threatened to cut off Jersey’s electricity supply from France, told Mr Sinkevicius that the licence conditions that Jersey introduced on 1 May for boats over 12m fitted with tracking equipment should be scrutinised by the ‘Specialised Committee on Fisheries’ that is defined in the UK-EU trade deal, which was agreed in December and ratified by the EU last month.

That committee, however, is yet to be formed, prompting Mme Girardin to call for it to be “convened as soon as possible”.


Pictured: French fishermen protesting in Jersey's waters last week.

Appearing to dismiss Jersey's "good faith" offer on Monday of more time for French fishermen to provide evidence of their previous activities to ensure they get the right type of licence, she added: “To ensure a peaceful climate for negotiations, all licenses for the Channel Islands must be renewed until 30 September, without new requirements.

"Jersey must also suspend its direct contacts with French fishermen."

Establishing direct lines of communication between the Government and French fishermen was one of the resolutions agreed between the two sides during talks in St. Helier Harbour last Thursday, when a large fleet of French boats sailed to the island to protest.

Jersey undertook to set up a hotline for French fishermen to provide informal information about their past fishing activities. This was established this week and it is understood that a number of French fishermen have called.

Mme. Girardin, however, wants this dialogue to cease.


Pictured: Following last week's protest, Jersey's Government agreed to liaise directly with French fishers to resolve concerns over its new fishing regime - something France's Minister of the Sea now wants to stop.

Her letter continues: “I ask the Commission to quickly examine the legality of Jersey’s new regulation with regard to the trade agreement. In any event, I would like its effects to be suspended pending the results of this legal analysis.

“At the same time, and without in any way calling into question the right of the United Kingdom to legislate in its waters, I would nevertheless like to recall the main principles which must frame the adoption of new measures in the waters of each country.

“These measures must be agreed, especially at the local level, or even validated by the Specialised Committee on Fisheries before their entry into force, as already stated in the trade agreement.

“These measures must be based, under the agreement, on the ‘best available scientific advice’ and must be justified to protect the resource. 

“However, for stocks in the Bay of Granville, scientific advice from ICES or IFREMER [international and French marine authorities, ed.] does not support the information from Jersey and the United Kingdom, which concludes that stocks are currently overfished by French vessels.”

The comments directly conflicted with those of Jersey's Environment Minister, who yesterday stressed that French fishers would have to accept some limits on their activities in future "to ensure that we do not exceed maximum sustainable fishing effort".

“In recent years, several of our fish stocks have been declining due to overfishing and we need to ensure the effort is reduced," he explained.

"If we are successful, this will ensure that both ourselves and the EU are able to continue to enjoy this valuable natural resource in perpetuity. Both our fishermen and those of the EU have this responsibility.”

In her letter to the EU, Mme. Girardin also called for what defines a ‘replacement vessel’ to be included in the trade agreement. 

She ends: “If the EU’s requests are refused by the UK, and if Jersey's practices remain contrary to the trade agreement, including unduly hindering our fishing activities, I ask that the European Union makes use of the procedural levers provided for by the trade agreement, in particular the adoption of corrective measures.”

Jersey's Government has since responded: “We are taking these talks very seriously and have already commenced detailed discussion with the European Commission. We hope France will join those talks.

"However, Jersey has already set out in great detail its position, which includes more time for the French authorities to submit evidence.”

French vessels currently have until 1 July to provide more evidence.

CLICK TO READ: The letter in full...


Pictured top: French Minister of the Sea, Annick Girardin. (Ministère de l'Intérieur/DICOM/Y/MALENFER/Wikipedia)

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Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.

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Posted by Keith Marsh on
As usual French "WANT , WANT, WANT"
The answer should be "NO"
Posted by Dave Mathews on
They obviously only see Jersey a Pawn in the game of Brexit.
Posted by Roy Dean on
Seems to me..if the Jersey Govt won't stand up for themselves..and their fishing fleet at this point of time and post Brexit its a real shame
Posted by neil faudemer on
Pretty ill informed comments from the good lady.Shooting from the hip and not engaging brain!
Posted by Peter Richardson on
We are just a useful pawn to the French government in relation to Brexit and the French elections. Marine Le Penn is posing a credible opposition to Mr Macron and he is struggling for votes in the Manche area so being seen to be strong on fishing rights helps him. France has been and will be a country stifled by bureaucracy as anyone who has lived there will know. The latest request that all communication is routed through Paris and not direct to the fishermen is another attempt for the French government to protract the issue and manipulate it for their own political reasons. They do not want it resolved as the longer and more acrimonious it is the more votes Mr Macron will garner.
Posted by Jon Jon on
Obvious the French won’t back down,with Jersey backing down till July shows that Jersey will back down completely.Dismal politicians who are out their depth dealing with this and it’s showing!
Posted by Scott Mills on
Well least it's something interesting to reading about, for well over a year now. Jersey will crumble, because well take on biggest Country in Europe. We need them, more than they need us...wouldn't you say. Jersey loving this as it's image is all over the media etc...playing games with the big boys...it'll only end up in tears. Still we've got nice beaches than the French.
Posted by Robert Gabriel on
One of the pivotal arguments made by Jersey’s government is that the new licensing regime for French fishermen is necessary because of overfishing. Whilst that may turn out to be true it does appear at the moment that there isn’t enough scientific evidence to justify Jersey’s position. The suggestion made by the French side for an independent scientific examination about whether fish stocks are in really in danger is therefore both sensible and pragmatic.

The alternative to agreeing to a pause in applying the current licensing regime is likely to see an unnecessary increase in animosity from the French side. That of course may mean that they go ahead with some of the threats they’ve made. Whilst in the short term Jersey may well be able to generate enough electricity for it’s own needs the harm to Jersey’s finance sector is of far more concern. Whilst protecting Jersey’s fishermen is obviously important is it important enough to risk irreparable harm to our finance sector?
Posted by Franny Dee on
Yet another positive argument for Jersey's Independence from the U.K. If we were able to negotiate directly and develop good relations with our closest neighbours, and not have to navigate Brexit regulations through London, we would surely do better all round for our fishing industry.
Posted by Scott Mills on
Franny Dee good luck with Jersey taking on the monarchy/UK Gov. Remember London "City" needs Jersey's offshore finance sector, for all the goodness that the industry works within.
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