Some French fishermen are “furious” at new Jersey-imposed licence conditions but the cross-border fraternity among fishers should prevail, according to their chief representative in Normandy.
Marc Delahaye was speaking after the Jersey government this week renewed all 136 licences that it has issued to French fishermen, giving them permission to fish in Jersey’s territorial waters.
For the first time, each licence had conditions attached, setting out what each fisherman could catch, what equipment they can use and how many days each can spend working in Jersey’s waters.
These restrictions over ‘nature and extent’ were defined in a trade deal reached by the EU and UK at the end of 2019.
To qualify, French fishers have to prove that they actively fished in Jersey waters during a three-year period between 2017 and 2020.
When it comes to what, when and where they can catch, Jersey has recreated a pre-Brexit permit scheme that was used by the French authorities under the old Bay of Granville Agreement, a shared management arrangement that previously determined access to island and French waters.
Before the ‘nature and extent’ conditions were sent to French fishers on Wednesday, Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf said he was “reasonably confident” that their arrival would not prompt a similar reaction to May 2021, when French fishers protested after the first attempt to impose them.
Pictured: French fishers protested outside the Harbour over the implementation of post-Brexit licence conditions in May 2021 (David Ferguson).
On Thursday, Mr Delahaye, who is Director-General of the Comité Regional des Pêches Maritime de Normandie, said that fishermen were still digesting the new conditions.
“For the moment, our members are trying to verify the information attached,” he said. “Some are fine, others are asking for explanations, which are received individually so takes time, and many are checking the consistency of the official data [from Jersey] with their data. Some are furious.”
Asked if his members would accept the conditions, he replied: “The difficulty is that, in the past, it was the fisherman, as a free agent, who chose the number of days he fished according to the availability of stocks, the market, the weather, his boat and his crew.
“Now, it is determined by an administration, including the maximum number of days he can fish [in Jersey waters]. Of course, it is a shock, and one that will take time to get over once you understand the insensitivity of international treaties and the verification of data.”
However, Mr Delahaye said that any initial resentment would be replaced by fraternity between fishermen.
“In May 2021 [when French fishermen protested outside of St. Helier Harbour], it was less about acrimony than anger at official information - Jersey and French - on how the situation had developed, and too much fake news, with an anti-French campaign describing us as looters.
“There will be resentment for a few weeks, then it will be frosty and then personal friendships will take over like in any community, especially fishermen at sea on the same waters.”
Mr Delahaye identified work that still needed to be done to improve the situation, for both French and Jersey fishers.
He said these were:
Explaining to French fishermen the licence process used;
Agreeing the vessel replacement policy for when fishermen retire, leave the industry or change boats;
Agreeing procedures for managing and monitoring the restrictions of days at sea and number of pots used;
Developing a regime of monitoring stocks which is shared by scientists from both sides;
The establishment of an informal forum to share information on the resource and measures in place;
The return of a constructive dialogue between professional fishing organisations;
The implementation between professions of a better relationship between the use of dredging and fixed gear.
Opening a SIVEP [Service d’inspection vétérinaire et phytosanitaire aux frontières – an official border inspection post] in Granville;
Greater cooperation to allow the implementation of a health policy for Jersey waters to allow Jersey fishers to easily land their bivalves, such as whelks [in France].
The issue of replacement vessels is due to be debated by the States Assembly at its next sitting on Tuesday.
Members agreed the policy in principle at their last sitting but they will debate the details after the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel decided to have a closer look at the proposed regulations.
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