The Normandy region has severed its ties with Jersey in protest at “inexplicable” conditions officials say were attached to French fishing licences when they came into force – while French fishermen say they’re preparing to blockade the island.
In a joint statement issued last night, President of the Normandy Region Hervé Morin, President of La Manche Council Marc Lefèvre and Chair of the Maison de Normandie and La Manche Jean-Marc Julienne announced that the Maison de Normandie et de la Manche, which provides an official link between Jersey and France, and houses the Honorary French Consulate, would be closing after more than 25 years as a way of demonstrating their “incomprehension and discontent” at the new permit system.
They say they’re now asking the French government to intervene.
As of last Friday (30 April), large French trawlers and dredgers fishing inside Jersey’s 12-mile limit now have to hold a licence issued by the Environment Minister. Without it, they will be fishing illegally and face prosecution.
The licences were issued to French boats based on evidence of past fishing activity, including proof that they have fished around Jersey on at least 10 occasions in any one of the last three years.
La @RegionNormandie et le @MancheCD50 ferment leur représentation à #Jersey suite aux annonces d’un nombre de jours limités de droits de pêche pour les marins #Normands et demandent au Gouvernement de saisir la Commission Européenne. pic.twitter.com/t7D490QVp7— NormandieConquérante (@NdieConquerante) May 3, 2021
An official list of 41 vessels that had received their licences was published on Friday. However, the trio of French officials say that, upon reading the document, they became aware that Jersey was imposing, “against expectations,” a number of what they termed “inexplicable conditions:" a limit on the number of days for fishing (seven to 170 depending on the boat), restrictions on types of fishing vessels and the closure of certain areas.
They said this was despite “constructive” dialogue with External Relations Minister Senator Ian Gorst with the aim of striking a new deal that would allow fishermen to continue under the same conditions.
“At no time, throughout the many discussions we had with Ian Gorst, Jersey’s External Relations Minister, was there a question of additional criteria being added to the licences,” Mr Lefèvre and Mr Morin said.
“We are asking the French Government to approach the European Commission to ensure the terms of the Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement are respected and applied.”
De nouvelles licences pour nos pêcheurs ! C'est une avancée réelle pour leur accès aux eaux britanniques mais le compte n'y est toujours pas. Le @gouvernementFR et la @EU_Commission poursuivent les négociations pour obtenir toutes les licences promises. pic.twitter.com/ZlzfSPtBHf— Annick Girardin (@AnnickGirardin) May 2, 2021
Fishing Minister Annick Girardin said on Monday: "These authorisations are subject to conditions not provided for in the agreement, linked to zones and the number of days at sea. France immediately informed the European Commission of its desire to ensure that the trade agreement is respected, by opposing to any unplanned technical measure."
She also said negotiations were ongoing in relation to obtaining permits for 14 additional vessels of more than 12 metres.
Meanwhile, it’s been reported that some French fishermen are so angry at the new system that they are prepared to blockade the island. Others are considering more drastic measures, like lobbying for the island’s electricity to be cut or interrupting the supply chain.
1 May marked the first time ever that Jersey took full control over the management of its seas – a position that will be cemented on 1 July when smaller French boats under 12m also have to hold a licence.
Between 2004 and 31 December last year, the management of Jersey’s waters between three and 12 miles was shared between France and the island under the Bay of Granville Agreement, which was signed by France and the UK in 2000.
Certains pêcheurs sont prêts à partir pour #jersey pour bloquer l’île. La colère est palpable quitte à risquer l’arraisonnement. D’autres militent pour des moyens de pression légaux comme couper l’électricité ou l’approvisionnement. Empêcher la débarque est privilégié pic.twitter.com/jhBzpnCtpQ— Marie Carof-Gadel (@mcarofgad) May 3, 2021
Before that, Jersey only had control out to three miles and around the Ecréhous and Minquiers reefs. The space in between was classed as “common sea” not belonging to anyone.
The change has come about because of Brexit, with the UK and Jersey becoming a ‘third country’ in the eyes of the EU. A trade deal between the two nations was signed at the end of December, which was finally ratified by the EU last Tuesday.
Express has approached the External Relations Minister for comment.
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