The Jersey government confirmed last week that it will issue 64 full licences and 31 temporary licences to French vessels to fish in Jersey waters, on top of the 47 vessels already licensed to do so earlier this year.
It has refused licences to 75 French vessels, and has given 30 days’ notice of the ending of the current transitional arrangements.
Don Thompson (pictured), chairman of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, said the decision was ‘a death warrant’ for the island’s fishing industry.
He fears some fishermen in Jersey face ‘certain bankruptcy’, and that the new licensing arrangements will more than double in size the number of French fishing vessels coming into Jersey’s waters.
“Our figures show that we have between 60 and 70 French fishing vessels in our waters – we’re now going to have more than 140. We’ve been let down by our politicians, who’ve just given in to the French demands,” he told ITV News.
“Even the limited controls they could have put on what gear they could use or how many days they could fish haven’t appeared, and have just gone by the wayside.”
But the French government said Jersey’s decision to refuse licences to the majority of French boats that had asked for one was ‘totally unacceptable and inadmissible’.
Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal told reporters they were ‘decisions that contravene the agreement that was signed in the context of Brexit’.
“The French state will obviously stand by its fishermen in this discussion,” he added.
The Jersey government said that French applicant vessels fall into one of three categories:
- Vessels that have provided the necessary evidence under the terms of the TCA. These 64 vessels will receive a licence, in addition to the 47 existing licence holders.
- Vessels which need to provide some additional evidence before they can be licensed. These 31 vessels will receive a temporary licence, which will give them until the end of January 2022 to provide the extra information.
- Vessels that do not meet the criteria, and have either not fished in Jersey waters during the relevant period, or have not been able to evidence their activity. These 75 vessels are being given 30 days’ notice of the end of the transitional arrangements, after which they will no longer be able to access Jersey waters.
While all unlicensed boats must stop fishing in Jersey waters at the end of October, Jersey authorities will still accept and consider further data and evidence as and when it is submitted.
The licence conditions specifically regarding ‘days at sea’ and ‘gear used’ will remain suspended to allow for further discussion between Jersey, the UK, the EU and France on the interpretation of ‘extent and nature’.
The French argue that it is difficult for their boats to provide evidence of the ‘extent and nature’ of their activity in Jersey waters as some boats do not have the necessary computer equipment to provide the evidence.
Jersey environment minister Deputy John Young said: “By issuing these licences in the days ahead, we are ensuring the fishing effort in our waters is similar to pre-Brexit – those boats with an economic dependence on Jersey waters, who’ve fished here regularly before, and have demonstrated it, will receive licences.
“We’ve been flexible in the kinds of positional evidence we’ve accepted, using VMS information, commercially available automatic identification system (AIS) data, logbooks, chart plotters and other written information.
“The issue of ‘replacement vessels’ is still to be resolved, and we’re aware they are important to the industry, as boats are regularly commissioned and decommissioned. There are a small number of these applicant vessels which require further consideration, and they will be allowed to continue operating in our waters for now while we continue discussions about how ‘replacement vessels’ should be managed.”
External relations minister Senator Ian Gorst paid tribute to ‘the tireless work’ of Jersey’s officers to pursue, collate and analyse the information.
“We will continue to have an open door to further data and evidence of fishing activity, including for vessels which have already been considered, and we look forward to working collaboratively to resolve the remaining complex issues.”
Tensions have been high in Jersey and in France throughout this year, with France banning or obstructing landings in France by Jersey vessels, and blockading St Helier in May.
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.