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Honorary police could be sent to protect Ecréhous

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HONORARY police could be deployed to the Ecréhous reef to clamp down on speeding boats and anti-social behaviour, it has emerged.

Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (26972666)

Officers from St Martin could be sent out to the islands – six miles north-east of Jersey – on a new Fisheries and Marine Resources RIB, which is due to come into service this year, according to the parish Constable and Deputy.

Environmentalists this week called for greater protection for the reef – a Ramsar site that falls within the Island’s National Park and under the administration of St Martin – after concerns were raised about how growing visitor numbers may be impacting on wildlife, including common terns and seals.

St Martin Constable Karen Shenton-Stone said: ‘I am in talks with the honorary police and after meeting the Ecréhous Residents Association we want to find a way of doing spot checks out there. I am very keen to do this.

‘The honoraries and I will do what we can. We cannot charge ratepayers for a RIB but the Environment Minister says there is a vessel at our disposal. I have conveyed that back to the honoraries and we think it is very viable.’

Lindsey Napton, a natural environment officer for the Environment Department, said it is hoped a new Wildlife Law, which would provide greater powers to protect animals, could be in place by the end of the year.

Naturalist Mike Stentiford, of the Jersey National Park, described protections offered from its status as a Ramsar site as ‘toothless’.

Mrs Napton said: ‘The law will give greater powers to protect wildlife but in particular, for the Ecréhous, it could give a mechanism to establish an area of special protection – that might be temporary or permanent – during a critical phase. It could be a specifically designated area that access can be restricted to.

‘The Wildlife Law is in the final stages. Scrutiny will have to see the final draft but we hope to get it to the Privy Council by the middle of this year and are hoping for it to come into force by the end of the year.’

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Mrs Karen Shenton-Stone said the parish wanted to do all it could to help protect the Ecréhous and said she believed the number of visitors needed to be reduced.

Estimates suggest that on a busy summer’s day up to 200 boats carrying hundreds of passengers can descend on the islands. Tour operators say they do all they can to limit the impact on the environment and have seen, anecdotally, an increase in common tern, seal and dolphin sightings.

Deputy Steve Luce, a regular visitor and former Environment Minister, said a balanced approach to protecting the Ecréhous needed to be adopted.

‘I have spoke to the Constable and I know she has spoken to the honorary police. If we are going to send people to the Ecréhous to monitor the situation we need to think carefully. If it’s anti-social behaviour or speeding boats, which I know can be a problem, it could be a job for the honorary police.

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‘If it’s illegal potting or fishing then it’s Fisheries & Marine Resources and if it’s wildlife issues then it’s the Environment Department. In the initial stages, I think education is the best way, but I understand Marine Resources are getting a new vessel and that could be used to get people out there.’

In a response to a question about protective measures for the reef from Deputy Kirsten Morel, the Environment Minister John Young said wardens, patrols or permits for visitors could be introduced.

The Environment Minister was contacted for comment.

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire
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