A Jersey freight vessel was held by blockade of protesting French fishermen at Saint Malo this morning – but was advised it was nothing personal.
The cargo-carrying Normandy Trader’s path was blocked between 08:00 and 09:00 by mariners holding red flares as it attempted to make its way to the port.
It’s understood that they were also hoping to disrupt a Brittany Ferries vessel's journey, but the travel company was informed of their actions in advance.
The Saint Malo demonstration involving around a dozen French vessels was one of several aimed at highlighting continuing frustrations with the post-Brexit fishing licence regime.
Fishers also blockaded Calais and Ouistreham and have plans to block highway access to the Eurotunnel this afternoon.
Des pêcheurs de Saint-Malo bloquent l'accès au port d'un cargo de fret en provenance de #Jersey, dans le cadre du contentieux entre la #France et la #GrandeBretagne sur l'accès aux eaux britanniques à— Ouest-France 35 (@ouestfrance35) November 26, 2021
la suite du #Brexit. pic.twitter.com/CP6ODgkIra
Regional fishing committee presidents highlighted in a press conference yesterday that their actions were primarily a show of anger against the UK, who they felt to be acting in bad faith, and the European Commission, who they accused of failing to stand up for them.
In a slight change of tone, some sympathy was expressed towards Jersey who they acknowledged had not signed the Brexit deal underlying the fishing row, and called for the return of bilateral relations rather than the “ineffective” system of only communicating with the island via London, Brussels and Paris.
Fishers protesting in Saint Malo this morning told regional news outlet Ouest-France that their actions were “symbolic” – a message Chris Le Masurier, who runs Jersey Oyster and Normandy Trader Freight, said was made clear to him as he attempted to reach Saint Malo with his shellfish this morning.
“The French fishermen were taking part in a national movement… They want to get the message across to their government that they want to have direct dialogue with Jersey for their future and their fishing licences. They are not happy with the convoluted way of feeding through Paris, Brussels and London.
“We go there on a weekly basis, we know the fishermen there. They have always been accommodating to us and polite.
“They came alongside and the head of their regional committee [Pascal Leclerc, President of the Ille-et-Vilaine Fisheries Committee] said, ‘This is what we are doing and this is the reason why we are doing it, it’s nothing directed against you.’”
He continued: “I sympathise with them because in Jersey we are having the same problem with our government. I have written to the Chief Minister and the External Relations Ministers two weeks ago. We are in a busy period for the export of shellfish in Jersey and we do not feel our back was covered. Unless it’s the finance industry, everyone else can forget about being represented. I didn’t even have a reply from them and I told them it was urgent.”
Echoing comments from Normandy Regional Fisheries Committee Head Dimitri Rogoff, Mr Le Masurier added: “I sympathise with the fishermen. All they want to do is to sit around the table with Normandy, Brittany and Jersey and be able to sort, like they have done for years under the Bay of Granville agreement, a sustainable fishery and their licences for the future.
“We are the only ones who can do that, we cannot have London and Brussels make decisions about fishing. It’s not going to work, it’s already proven it’s not working.”
Pictured: Chris Le Masurier, whose Normandy Trader was held in this morning's protests, said he understood why they were happening.
President of Jersey’s Fishing Association, Don Thompson, saw the matter differently, however.
He criticised the “disruptive tactics” and called on Government Ministers to take “decisive and responsible action in order to prevent an environmental and economic disaster.”
Accusing Ministers of having a “complacent attitude” and failing to “take a more proactive stance”, Mr Thompson said that the 160-plus vessels now licensed to fish in Jersey’s waters would not be able to do so sustainably “without the application of some very strict management measures”.
He further questioned why Jersey taxpayers appeared to be covering the cost of issuing licences to French vessels, and questioned whether Ministers felt it “fair and equitable” that that France had allegedly only issued one licence to a Jersey boat.
Pictured: Don Thompson said Jersey Ministers had been "complacent".
This morning, the Government confirmed that it would be extending its fisheries support scheme, with up to £400,000 of funding available.
18 claimants received salary support and seven received fixed cost support in the first phase of the scheme, which saw around £120,000 paid out.
The Government said that the objectives of ‘Phase 2’ will be:
Assistant Minister for Economic Development Deputy Kirsten Morel said: “There is continued uncertainty around access to Jersey waters, and Brexit-related barriers to Jersey’s long-established markets in Europe, and ongoing pressures on key stocks. It is therefore appropriate that businesses in the fishing sector continue to have support to help them through these difficult times.”
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