Two important reefs could be placed off limits to fishermen
- Move to protect sites which harbour marine life
- The sea-bed at the Ecréhous and Minquiers could be closed to fishermen in the future
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THE sea-bed at the Ecréhous and Minquiers could be closed to fishermen in the future in an attempt to protect sites deemed to be important for marine life.
The Société Jersiaise, Jersey Fishermen's Association and Environment Department are currently working on plans to find new areas for fishing boats to harvest.
It is hoped that the results of a marine study of the offshore reefs will enable the JFA to consider and agree on a new set of fishing areas, which could be presented to the French authorities in October.
Francis Binney, chairman of the Société Jersiaise's marine biology section, confirmed that future plans could include closing areas around the Ecréhous and Minquiers to fishing vessels, adding that the project was complicated because it involved Jersey fishermen, French fishermen and the Société Jersiaise as well as two government administrations.
Mr Binney said: 'We are now looking at the various areas of the Ecréhous and Minquiers sea-bed and giving them an ecological and commercial value.
'We are working out which areas are important for marine life – some of those sites are obviously commercially valuable as well.
'We are undertaking a study in collaboration with the JFA and the Environment Department.
'It is hoped that within the next month we can get all the data in and give it to the JFA in time for them to consider it and come up with a proposal that can be agreed at the next Bay of Granville meeting with the French in October.'
- Dredging for fish can be carried out in a number of different ways, but involves collecting bottom-dwelling species from the seabed.
- Some boats operate by dragging a metal device a fishing dredge along the seabed as they move across the water.
- After a period the equipment is then winched up into the boat and the contents collected.
- Other dredgers use a suction method to gather material from the seabed.
- Careless dredging has been blamed for destroying underwater habitats that are crucial for life beneath the waves.
Mr Binney's comments follow more claims from environmentalists and scallop divers that fishing dredges (equipment that is dragged along the sea-bed to collect bottom-dwelling species) are harming important underwater habitats.
Don Thompson, president of the JFA, said that fishermen could be barred from quite large areas of the Ecréhous and Minquiers.
He added that the fishermen involved in the project were prepared to accept the findings of the Société Jersiaise.
Mr Binney explained that it was essential that any changes did not have a negative effect on the fishing industry or leave fishermen without any means to support themselves.
'The last thing we want to do is destroy livelihoods,' he added.
'This is about finding a reasoned, best-fit response.'
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