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