Jersey's Government has offered to extend the transition period allowing certain French vessels to continue to fish in island waters to the end of September.
Ministers hope the three-month extension will satisfy the EU and calm a stormy dispute over the ability of French boats to fish in Jersey’s territorial waters.
Environment Minister John Young was tight-lipped last week on the possibility of an extension but this has now been agreed.
This friction over fishing rights received worldwide attention at the beginning of May when a fleet of around 70 boats from neighbouring French ports demonstrated outside St. Helier Harbour.
The fishermen were protesting about new licences that had been issued by Jersey, defining what, where and when they could catch fish within the Island’s 12-mile territorial limit.
Under the terms of the post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and EU, Jersey became responsible for managing its own waters, ending a previous shared management arrangement that had been defined in the Bay of Granville Agreement, signed in 2000.
Following the signing of the trade agreement last December, an interim arrangement was agreed at the start of this year to permit French fishing boats holding a previous Granville Bay licence to operate in Jersey waters while the new licence system was being established.
The trade deal requires evidence of the “extent and nature” of previous fishing activity to be demonstrated in order for access to be granted.
A Government spokesman said that, in recent weeks, Jersey, the UK, France and EU officials had been in “intensive discussions” over the implementation of the trade deal to prevent further disruption and ensure the sustainability of fishing in the area.
“The EU has recently requested an extension to the transitional arrangements, which had been due to come to an end on 30 June,” he said.
Pictured: The Royal Navy sent two small warships to the Island to monitor May's protest by French fishermen.
“Jersey ministers have agreed to that request, for those vessels which the EU has submitted applications on behalf of, which will allow more time for further track record evidence to be submitted and analysed, and for technical matters to be worked through.
“In parallel to the extension, Jersey ministers wish to see real progress in the weeks ahead.
Jersey has therefore requested the EU submits further evidence for existing applications by the end of July, including whether the vessels held Normandy permits.
“Ministers have also requested confirmation that the three applicant Jersey vessels can reciprocally operate in EU waters, and called on the EU to ensure Jersey vessels are able to continue landing catch into French ports, under the terms of the trade deal.”
The spokesperson added that, from 1 July, the revised transitional arrangements would allow the 47 boats with onboard tracking equipment that are already licensed to continue to fish in Jersey’s waters.
Also allowed would be the 177 smaller EU boats that have applied for a licence, for which evidence is currently being submitted.
Until the end of September, licence conditions around “number of days” and the “gear” used would remain suspended, he said.
Pictured: External Relations Minister Ian Gorst: "We are offering this extension to the amnesty period to allow the continuation of constructive discussions".
External Relations Minister Ian Gorst, said: “Jersey welcomes the engagement on both a technical and political level with the UK, EU and France on resolving the complex and challenging issues around fishing.
“The relationship with France is hugely important to Jersey in so many ways. We know aspects of that relationship have been difficult recently, but want to ensure we work through the issues, fulfilling the terms of the trade deal and ensuring the sustainability of fishing in our waters.
“We are offering this extension to the amnesty period to allow the continuation of constructive discussions. Work to establish how to translate the ‘extent and nature’ provision of the trade agreement into licensing must continue apace, it is an important element of the agreement and we must all recognise it has genuine meaning.”
The full list of qualifying boats will be published on the UK Single Issuing Authority website.
Environment Minister John Young, said: “I hope this extra time will allow real progress and we have included certain steps along the way over the next few months to ensure the situation moves forward at a greater rate, which will benefit all fishermen.
“We urge French and EU authorities to ensure all data has been sent through during the next few weeks. We must guarantee fishing in the Island’s waters is sustainable, while being compliant with the terms of the trade deal.”
It seems likely that a three-month extension will satisfy the French. Speaking to Le Figaro last week, a spokesman for the country's Ministry of the Sea said France was seeking a delay to the end of September, which would bring "visibility to fishermen and give time for negotiation".
Responding to the news from Jersey, Annick Girardin, France’s Minister of the Sea, tweeted: “Jersey has finally accepted the three-month extension of provisional licences. A breath of fresh air for our fishermen. Our goal now: to continue to protect their rights and ensure that they can continue their activity beyond 30 September.”
#Jersey a enfin accepté la prolongation de 3 mois des licences provisoires ! Une bouffée d'air frais pour nos pêcheurs ????????. Notre objectif désormais : continuer à protéger leurs droits et veiller à ce qu'ils puissent poursuivre leur activité au-delà du 30 septembre. https://t.co/Uvrr7h8bJg— Annick Girardin (@AnnickGirardin) June 28, 2021
Last week, Jersey’s Government announced a package of financial measures to support Jersey’s fishing industry, which will provide funding for fixed costs and salaries incurred between this May and August and will be available to businesses that are directly involved in activity related to fisheries.
On Monday, Senator Ian Gorst met with João Vale de Almeida, Head of the EU Delegation in the UK.
The Government said that the pair had had a constructive discussion about Jersey’s latest interim arrangement concerning EU fishers in Jersey waters.
“Both agreed this was a useful arrangement to provide extra time for the ongoing talks between Jersey, the EU, the UK and France to reach a satisfactory conclusion. It confirms the longstanding close relationship between the EU and Jersey,” a statement said.
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