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'Reel' chance that fishing spat over... if conditions are fair

'Reel' chance that fishing spat over... if conditions are fair

Monday 11 April 2022

'Reel' chance that fishing spat over... if conditions are fair

Monday 11 April 2022


European politicians are asking for reassurance that conditions attached to French fishing licences are applied in good faith.

As the bitter row that saw Jersey accused of breaking Brexit and a blockade of the island's ports finally appears to be drawing to a close, MEPs have called for no "restrictive and controversial interpretations" of the rules governing where, when and how French vessels can fish in the waters around Jersey and Guernsey in a symbolic resolution approved with 619 votes to 12 on Tuesday.

"We have to understand France and especially those regions who, basically from their shores, can see Jersey and Guernsey. They always had a relationship with them. They used to fish in each other's waters and really live well with each other and then Brexit really reshuffled this relationship," European Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius told the FT yesterday.

France had previously warned of potential legal action.

Mr Sinkevicius indicated, however, that a truce had been reached. "We have managed to achieve most of the licences that have been requested," he stated, going on to praise the "spirit of good neighbourliness" which he said had "generally prevailed".

The fishing feud erupted in early 2021 after the UK's departure from the EU meant that arrangements for the historically shared waters between Jersey and France had to be redrawn.

Jersey put in place a licensing system, which some French fishers complained was difficult to apply to because too much evidence was needed. Some successful applicants complained that they came with overly stringent conditions.

To ease tensions, Jersey offered to hit pause on the imposition of any conditions attached to each licence, opting to firstly resolve the issue of how many fishers should be granted licences to operate in the island's territorial waters. As of March, 131 French boats were licensed to fish around Jersey – less than half of the roughly 350 able to fish prior to Brexit.

Jersey has previously said that any conditions that apply to the new licences would be based on the same criteria applied under the previous Bay of Granville agreement.

Ministers said last month that they were keen to apply these, but that the UK firstly wanted to present these 'nature and extent' restrictions to the EU along with conditions set by the other Crown Dependencies.

On Jersey's side, one of the significant frustrations was that the rules of the post-Brexit trade agreement between the UK and the EU prevented the island communicating directly with affected fishers just across the water. Instead, evidence of past fishing activity sent by Norman and Breton fishers to officials in Jersey had to go via Paris, Brussels and London, with data often held-up or even lost along the way.

Girardin Gorst Le Fondre Gorst.jpg

Pictured: French Minister of the Sea Annick Girardin meeting Jersey Ministers online in January.

Last month, Jersey Ministers revealed that this position had changed after French President Emmanuel Macron gave Breton and Norman fishers the green light to communicate with island authorities directly.

Home Affairs Minister Deputy Gregory Guida described this as a "massive step forward".

Pictured top: The fishing dispute was at its most intense last May, when a flotilla of French fishing boats protested outside the Harbour.

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Posted by Guy de Faye on
It is frankly laughable that EU politicians are requesting that conditions due to be attached to "French" fishing licences should be "applied in good faith".

Following the UK's departure from the EU there has been no evidence of "good faith" from Brussels, only ongoing disruption, with France being the worst offender.

EU MEPs are experts at allowing imposition of "restrictive and controversial interpretations" of prevailing regulations, Express readers will recall numerous examples of obstructive behaviour.

French fishing vessels have "fished out" their own waters and will do the same to Channel Island fishing grounds. They are plunderers and profiteers and the 131 licences that Jersey has been obliged to grant are 131 too many - if the conservation of local fish stocks is our long term ambition.

I would be very surprised if the European Fisheries Minister, the Lithuanian Virginius Sinkevičius, has any understanding of the historical relationship between Brittany, the Channel Islands and Normandy, let alone the details of the former Granville Bay Treaty. We are, realistically, listening to positioning on negotiations with the UK - which the Channel Islands should never have been involved in.

If readers are unfamiliar with the inept nature of the EU Parliament and its MEPs, the impending conditions are actually deliberately aimed at being restrictive. They will direct where vessels can fish, what crustacea, fish and shellfish can be taken and how much may be caught. This has no chance of being anything other than controversial, from the French perspective.
As for "the spirit of good neighbourliness", just ask a Jersey fisherman how that is going.

Jersey must take a hard line, simply to ensure preservation of stocks. Bass numbers are down by 80%. Once again, I urge Islanders to send a pre-emptive message by boycotting French products, especially wine, until the fishing dispute is resolved in Jersey's favour.
Posted by Robert Gabriel on
Unfortunately, when it comes to livelihood's being threatened all reason goes out the window. Thankfully, and despite the unnecessary political posturing coming from both London & Paris this saga can now be laid to rest!
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