Around 70 French boats arrived in island waters this morning and blockaded the harbour in a protest over fishing rights - under close watch by the Royal Navy. A French naval vessel is patrolling French waters near the area.
It's believed that the Normandy Trader, which is captained by Jerseyman Chris Le Masurier and is sitting within the flotilla, has offered to host talks between Jersey and France. The boat normally runs between St. Helier and Granville.
The French boats were originally stationed near Elizabeth Castle but then headed towards St. Helier’s harbour to begin a formal blockade.
The ships' entry into the harbour delayed the departure of the Commodore Goodwill.
Prise de guerre pour l’équipage de la presqu’île Laurent, Michel et Thomas qui « bloquent » le commodore goodwill #Jersey ☠️ pic.twitter.com/CqV5E2Zfeu— Marie Carof-Gadel (@mcarofgad) May 6, 2021
Pictured: Some of the fishermen blocking the Commodore Goodwill.
Although French boats backed off and moved behind Elizabeth Castle around 07:00, the Goodwill missed its tidal window, so is now stuck until after 11:30, along with the Sarnia Liberty.
It's now being reported that the French boats are planning to move back towards the harbour. The fleet has been spotted coming back in, and were around 100m from the pier heads at the time of writing.
« on y retourne ils se foutent de notre gueule » alors que la délégation jersiaise se fait désirer, les bateaux français entrent à nouveau dans le port de Saint-Hélier #Jersey— Marie Carof-Gadel (@mcarofgad) May 6, 2021
Pictured: The French boats are looking to return to the harbour, one Ouest France reporter said just before 09:00.
Two Royal Navy patrol vessels are keeping watch along the south coast, while Athos, a vessel from the Gendarmerie Maritime de Manche et du Mer du Nord, is patrolling French waters near the area. The role of the Gendarmerie Maritime, which is under the responsibility of the region's Préfet, is to rescue human life at sea and they regularly patrol French waters. A spokesperson confirmed they have been asked to stay nearby in case someone falls at sea.
Pictured: The position of French Navy vessel, Athos, around 08:30.
Some fishermen have been using flares, and others are carrying French and Normandy flags and protest signs.
One boat carried a sheet reading: "Don't change anything. Let's stay friends. Jersey Government steal our historical wrights (sic)."
Video: Scenes from the French protest around 07:00.
Jersey’s Government said last night that they expected the protest to be “peaceful” and that the Royal Navy’s HMS Severn and HMS Tamar had been sent in by the UK Prime Minister as a “precautionary” measure.
Boris Johnson said last night that it was hoped this would “de-escalate” tensions.
Both boats, which are equipped with a 20mm cannon and general purpose machine guns, arrived in Jersey’s waters early this morning.
Pictured: HMS Severn and Tamar (in light blue bottom right) keeping watch over the vessels as they headed for the harbour around 06:30.
HMS Severn is stationed near Corbiere, while HMS Tamar is South of Portelet.
HMS Severn appeared to escort the Commodore Goodwill around 03:30 this morning along the island's west coast this morning, enabling its cargo to be delivered safely and ahead of schedule.
Pictured: The HMS Tamar, sporting its new camouflage paintjob, can be viewed from Jersey's coast.
Islanders are gathered at the harbours to watch the scene unfold.
Police are also present, patrolling around Albert Pier and Elizabeth Harbour.
Police Chief Robin Smith said this morning that they had "no issues or concerns."
@JerseyPolice will be patrolling in around Albert Pier and Elizabeth Harbour this morning. Currently no issues or concerns. pic.twitter.com/f6NZOzfG4Z— Robin Smith (@ChiefJersey) May 6, 2021
Despite expectations that the protest will remain “peaceful”, David Sellam, Head of the joint Normandy-Brittany sea authority, was quoted as saying yesterday: “We’re ready for war. We can bring Jersey to its knees if necessary.”
He said the island appeared to have been taken over by an “extremist" fringe wishing to profit from Brexit.
The protest is an act of retaliation by the French fishermen after some were denied permits to fish in the island’s waters, while others were aggrieved by conditions they said Jersey had “unilaterally” added to the permits. These conditions included restrictions on fishing zones and the number of days they could spend at sea per year.
Pictured: A Royal Navy patrol vessel can be seen keeping watch in the distance.
France’s Maritime Minister said she was “disgusted” at the restrictions, and that hinted that France could cut off the island’s electricity supply in retaliation.
Ministers and Jersey Electricity have since assured that Jersey will not be left in the dark if this threat comes to fruition, as it has its own generators at La Collette and Queen’s Road.
The change to a disputed fishing licence system came 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.
Pictured: Jersey vessel, The Normandy Trader, which has offered to host talks between Jersey and French officials.
Previously, 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.
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.
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