‘Ban foreign vessels from fishing near Island reefs’

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Don Thompson, president of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, said that he believed it would be ‘unacceptable’ if the Island failed to exercise its post-Brexit sovereignty over areas such as the Minquiers and the Écréhous, which he feels are being over-fished.

He added that the Island’s fleet was unhappy that an exclusion limit of at least three miles had not been placed around the reefs when Brexit transition period finished on 31 December.

Brexit, and the adoption of the UK-EU TECA trade deal, effectively nullified the Bay of Granville Treaty that had previously outlined shared fishing rights between Jersey and France.

The Maîtresse Île at the Minquiers. Picture: Dan Caunce (30190819)

‘The Granville Bay Treaty made what you would call a derogation [exemption] for French fishermen to fish around the Island’s reefs,’ said Mr Thompson.

‘The treaty went out when the TECA was introduced so there is no need for Jersey to continue to reflect any of the terms that existed previously and to revert to a situation where there was unsustainable levels of fishing going on in these areas. We don’t want to end up with a Granville Bay Treaty version two.’

Mr Thompson said that the issue had been raised, with legal support and evidence, to the Island’s Law Officers’ Department and that he was confident that Jersey should be able to apply an exclusion zone around the reefs.

‘We have met law officers and we haven’t seen any tangible new evidence on top of what we have presented, which makes a very clear case for sovereignty and the inclusion of the offshore reefs in our territorial seas and fisheries limits,’ he said.

‘It’s an ongoing dialogue at the moment, with legal support, rather than resorting to legal challenge, which would take a lot of money and time. We want to establish this within the transition period which expires in 80-something days.’

He added that he felt Islanders would find it ‘unacceptable’ if Jersey did not take steps to protect its ‘precious’ offshore reefs.

‘The sovereignty of the reefs has been contested back to the 19th century but it was always the case that they belonged to Jersey and the International Court of Justice [of the United Nations] in the Hague found in favour of Jersey unequivocally in 1953,’ he said.

‘People would surely be astonished that Jersey would relinquish our rights to those reefs.’

Tensions have grown between French and Jersey fishermen since the end of last year when it was announced that Norman and Breton boats would need to ask the Island’s authorities for licences to use its waters commercially and to prove that they had a history of fishing in these areas.

External Relations Minister Ian Gorst recently announced an amnesty period for European fishermen until the end of April while applications are made.

Other issues that have been raised by the Jersey Fishermen’s Association include reciprocal access for Jersey boats to French waters, licensing costs for local boats and the limited range of the Island’s three-mile exclusive fishing zone compared to practices in other jurisdictions.

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