Jersey fishermen are once again able to land their catch in Normandy – but a Jersey boat was told not to land shellfish into Saint Malo this morning due to "security concerns", as the fishing crisis took a confusing turn.
Last night, the Government announced that a ban on Jersey boats landing their catch in Granville, Carteret and Dielette issued on Friday had been lifted after it had agreed to extend an amnesty for French fishermen who had been recently issued with licences to fish in Jersey waters.
Jersey’s Government said that the Council of La Manche's U-turn came after it offered a gesture of "good faith" - giving recently licensed French vessels until 1 July 2021 to provide further evidence of their fishing record to ensure they get the right licence, allowing them to continue to fish in the same way they have done over the past three years.
They also said that French-speaking Government staff had been redeployed to the Fisheries Department and that they had set up a hotline for French fishers to directly relay their concerns.
However, this morning, the Normandy Trader – a former military landing craft that has been carrying most Jersey shellfish to France since Condor stopped regular sailings to the port – was allowed to land oysters and mussels in Saint Malo, which is in Brittany, but not lobsters and crab caught by local fishermen.
Pictured: A direct hotline manned by French speaking Government staff has been set up to help resolve the issue.
Speaking from Saint Malo, owner Chris Le Masurier, who also runs Jersey Oyster, said: “Our oysters and mussels have been landed but since covid, the boat has also been carrying the lobster and crab of Aqua-Mar, the merchant that most Jersey fishermen sell their catch to.
“However, before we left Jersey, the port authorities in Saint Malo said they didn’t want us to take shellfish there today because of the possible security risk.
“Unfortunately, there are still a lot of fishermen here who are discontent with the new licensing system and the lack of clarity. Personally, I have spent all morning on the phone and every hour the situation seems to change. We are all caught up in this massive mess.
“We are intending to sail to Granville tomorrow, but I’ve been told that it might not be possible, and that has apparently come from the EU.
“We are still in the throes of finding what is going on, and it seems like we’re back where we were last week. The fishermen, the exporters, the government, the French… no one is talking to one another. It is so demoralising.”
Nathalie Porritt of Aqua-Mar said she was hugely disappointed that the around seven-tonnes of shellfish in the merchant’s tanks on the Victoria Pier could not be exported to France.
Earlier this week, the business was forced to close its doors to new catch because the tanks are full of crab and lobster.
“There are three or four boats who can direct land into Normandy, but the vast majority of fishermen export their shellfish through us, so this morning’s news was very frustrating,” she said.
“The local industry is still at a standstill and with the amnesty extension, French boats can still work in Jersey’s waters and land their catch in France, and our boats can’t.
“I am looking at rerouting via the UK but that is an extra cost, plus there are a lot of covid restrictions and Brexit paperwork to deal with.
“We need our Government to start talking to us because it’s crucial that we know what’s going on.”
The 1 July extension offered by Jersey's Government falls short of what Didier Leguelinel of Normandy's Regional Fishing Committee called for at a meeting with French MEP and EU Fisheries Committee member Stéphanie Yon-Courtin yesterday.
According to Ouest France, he suggested that the extension should last until 31 December, as it would provide enough "time to renegotiate a deal calmly while allowing fishers to continue working."
Pictured: Normandy's Regional Fishing Committee thinks that the extension for French fishers to get their paperwork in order should last until 31 December.
Mme. Yon-Courtin was visiting the Granville region at the request of fishermen and regional representatives to hear their concerns.
La Manche's national representative, Bertrand Sorre, did not express support for La Manche Council's decision to rescind the Normandy landing ban.
“La Manche must sign a clear order forbidding Jersey fishers from landing until further notice," he said.
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