French fishermen briefly disrupted trade at Calais, St Malo, Ouistraham and the Channel Tunnel rail link last weekend in their efforts to gain licences to fish in Jersey and UK waters.

As they had warned, they have begun a campaign to disrupt trade between the UK and France in an escalation of the dispute.

A number of French trawlers inside Calais held up two ferries operated by DFDS and P&O as they approached Calais on Friday 26 November, and at the Channel Tunnel terminal in nearby Coquelles, fishermen erected barricades of burning wooden pallets and lit smoke canisters.

The fishermen manning the roadblocks said they wanted to see progress by 10 December the date when the UK and EU are aiming to conclude negotiations on fishing opportunities in 2022.

“If we don’t get anywhere… believe me, the English will not have a magic Christmas. We’ll ruin the party,” Jean Michel Fournier, a fisherman from near Boulogne, told Reuters.

French fishermen also blocked a small British vessel outside Saint Malo, the Normandy Trader, which transports oysters from Jersey to France, among other cargos.

The national fisheries committee representing French fishermen (CNPMEM) said the action was ‘a warning shot’ restricted to only a few hours at specified locations and was ‘a symbolic measure’ to target cross-Channel freight and passenger traffic.

But if there was no movement on more licences being issued, French fishermen would consider taking further action.

Gérard Romiti, president of CNPMEM (pictured above), said: “We are not looking for handouts, we just want our licences back.

“The UK must abide by the post-Brexit deal. Too many fishermen are still in the dark. We have been waiting for 11 months. The patience of the fishermen has its limits. We hope notice will be taken of this warning.” He declined to rule out further action.

CNPMEM said 738 licences have been requested and obtained for the UK EEZ. Of the 175 licences requested for the UK 6-12nm zone, 104 have been granted and 71 are pending.

For Jersey waters, France has applied for 218 licences, of which 116 have been granted and 102 are pending. Sixty-four licences for Guernsey are also pending.

A spokesman for prime minister Boris Johnson said Britain’s position on issuing licences had not changed and London was monitoring the protests.

Don Thompson, president of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, said there were a lot of French fishermen who did not support the blockades. “They don’t want to see more and more licences being issued – they can see it would destabilise the fishery if too many are issued.”

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.

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