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Can make-or-break meeting settle fishing-treaty dispute?

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FISHERMEN and officials from Jersey are to hold make-or-break talks with their French counterparts later this month.

Don Thompson

The forthcoming meeting offers what may be the last chance to salvage the Granville Bay Treaty, which governs reciprocal fishing access for boats from Jersey and France but has been described as ‘broken’ by the Jersey Fishermen’s Association.

Islanders have rallied to support the Jersey fleet, with a surge in the amount of fish sold directly to the public during lockdown, and more than 500 signatures for a petition demanding the revocation of the treaty.

Association president Don Thompson said there was a desperate need to agree effective management measures for fish stocks in the Bay of Granville.

‘The treaty was put there to manage stocks, but it is actually preventing us from doing that,’ he said. ‘Crab, lobster and bream stocks are declining and we have seen the decimation of bream breeding grounds.’

Mr Thompson said the issue had been brought into sharper focus as a result of ongoing negotiations between the UK and the EU regarding fishing rights beyond the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.

Jersey is not part of the UK/EU negotiations, but could be affected if some French boats are displaced from UK waters. Mr Thompson estimated that up to 55 boats could end up coming to the Bay of Granville, putting further pressure on fish stocks and threatening the livelihoods of fishermen – from Jersey, Brittany and Normandy – who currently operate in the area.

A spokesman for the regional fishing committee in Normandy confirmed his organisation would attend the meeting. ‘We are open to discussion, and convinced that we can work together to find a solution,’ he said.

If the forthcoming discussion did not have a positive outcome, Mr Thompson said he believed that the time might be right for Jersey to seek a new approach.

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‘We want to try to find solutions, but if not then we can’t accept this treaty – it is unjust and unfair,’ he said. ‘We would then be looking to go to the UK and seek to have the same fishing arrangements as they do.’

Mr Thompson also highlighted the strengthening connection between the Jersey public and the Island’s fishermen.

‘Before Covid, probably eight out of ten people didn’t see fishermen, and if they bought fish they got it from the supermarket,’ he said. ‘Now they are more aware and are sharing our frustration at the lack of control over our marine resources.’

The petition to revoke the Bay of Granville Treaty was signed by more than 520 Islanders during the week after it was lodged on the States Assembly website on 2 July. Mr Thompson said he would welcome bringing the debate about the treaty into the public eye and hoped senior members of Jersey’s government would support the fishing industry.

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