The Government hopes that the protracted and, at times, bitter fishing dispute with France and the EU will move a step closer to being resolved with a relaxation of the rules over replacement vessels.
Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf is asking the States Assembly to approve a change in regulations to provide more flexibility when a fisher wants to replace their boat.
The rules around replacement vessels has become a sticking point in negotiations between Jersey and the UK on one side, and France and the EU on the other.
Their dispute was born out of the UK’s departure from the EU in 2020, and the right of French fishers to access Jersey’s territorial waters.
It prompted French fishermen to protest outside of the Harbour in May last year and the country’s then Fisheries Minister to threaten to cut off the electricity supply to the island.
The dispute quietened down when Jersey issued licences to 136 French vessels that met a qualifying criteria, which was established in a trade deal agreed between the EU and UK at the end of 2020.
However, there was a second part to that trade agreement around what conditions should be attached to those licences.
Referred to as ‘nature and extent’, these restrictions centred on what fish could be caught, where and in what quantity. What happens when a boat is replaced or retired was also part of these second phase of negotiations, which are ongoing.
Pictured: Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf's proposition is due to be debated in February.
When Jersey was initially drafting its proposals over replacement vessels, it established simple but strict rules, which essentially said that a boat had to be replaced like-for-like.
Now, Deputy Renouf is asking for more flexibility and discretion – a fisher may, for instance, ask for permission to replace their vessel with something slightly longer, wider, heavier or with a more powerful engine.
However, if permission is granted, it does not mean the fisher will be able to vary what they can catch because ‘nature and extent’ will be clearly defined as part of the licence.
Nor will the size of a vessel be able to ‘creep’ if a vessel is replaced several times because the licence will return to the dimensions and power of the original qualifying vessel when an application is made to vary the terms.
If the change is approved, Jersey’s regulations would be reciprocated by the EU and France, meaning that Jersey fishers who work in EU waters would be offered the same flexibility when replacing a boat.
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