Jersey gives France more time over fishing dispute

a small boat in a body of water: French fishing vessels protested in St Helier Harbour last week over a new licensing system © Getty Images French fishing vessels protested in St Helier Harbour last week over a new licensing system

Jersey has granted French fishermen more time to meet its new rules in a bid to solve a fishing licence dispute.

The extension until 1 July is a sign of "good faith" that the row over France's post-Brexit rights can be solved, the Government of Jersey said.

French authorities in Normandy have also lifted a ban on Jersey fishermen landing their catches in its ports.

It follows boat protests which blockaded Jersey's St Helier Harbour, with the UK and French navy called in.

a boat is docked next to a body of water: About 60 French and Jersey boats were at the entrance to the island's main port of St Helier © BBC About 60 French and Jersey boats were at the entrance to the island's main port of St Helier

The fishermen were protesting against post-Brexit rules which require French boats to show they have a history of fishing in Jersey's waters.

French authorities claimed these additional requirements were added without notice.

The Government of Jersey said it had sent its response to the recent issues to the UK government, which has shared them with the EU and defended the Crown Dependency's permit system.

Fishing row explained

The new fishing licences were introduced at the end of April under the UK and EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), signed ahead of Brexit in December 2020.

They are based around fishing vessels being able to demonstrate a history of operating in Jersey waters between 2017 and 2020, with 42 issued so far.

The row arose over after French fishermen argued the system imposed unexpected restrictions on them, including how many days a year they can operate and what gear they can use.

This led to French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin threatening to cut Jersey's electricity supply - around 95% of which is supplied by cable from France.

Jersey's External Relations Minister Ian Gorst described the threat as "disproportionate" and insisted the government was willing to engage with fishermen over updating their licences.

However, French authorities said "new technical measures" for fishing off the Channel Islands had not been communicated to the EU, rendering them "null and void".

'Proven economic link'

Jersey's Environment Minister John Young told the States Assembly on Tuesday limits on days allowed in Jersey waters, as well as rules on gear that can be used by licensed vessels, have been suspended until 1 July.

He said "technical meetings" were taking place between the UK and EU on Tuesday to "further clarify these matters", acknowledging he had not personally spoken to the French.

However, Deputy Young added the licensing regime was for "long term suitability" and emphasised the rules would apply to both EU and Jersey fishing vessels.

"Our objective remains to find a way forward for all fisheries who have a proven economic link to Jersey waters and return to the cordial, positive relations we have enjoyed for decades with our closes neighbours in Brittany and Normandy."

'Sustainability'

Jersey senator Ian Gorst said the government would like to "move beyond recent events and focus on finding a resolution", but stood by the new system and emphasised the island would "continue to manage our own waters"

Senator Gorst said: "The people of Jersey are passionate about proactively managing our waters in line with sustainability principles.

"Therefore, new measures such as limits on dredging and temporarily closing certain areas to carry out scientific studies, are appropriate."

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Jersey gives France more time over fishing dispute