Fishing bans 'could result in shortages'

BANNING some types of fishing in Jersey’s waters could damage the livelihoods of fishermen and create shortages of scallops, according to the Jersey Fishermen’s Association.

Don Thompson, president of the Jersey Fishermen's Association. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30239525)
Don Thompson, president of the Jersey Fishermen's Association. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30239525)

Its president Don Thompson stressed that the association had a longstanding involvement in environmental protection work.

Conservation bodies The Blue Marine Foundation and the National Trust for Jersey are arguing for a ‘marine conservation park’ covering some of the waters around the Island, where practices such as dredging and trawling would be banned.

They are urging the government to include it in next year’s Interim Island Plan.

But the fishermen’s association believes it is unnecessary and potentially harmful to livelihoods.

Mr Thompson said that the new post-Brexit trade agreement was giving French vessels access to waters up to three miles from our coast, so Jersey’s scallop fishermen would have to rely far more on their traditional winter fishing grounds to the east of Jersey, within the three miles.

And he feared the proposed marine conservation park may exclude them from those grounds.

Mr Thompson said: ‘The grounds off Jersey’s coast have, for over two centuries, provided a livelihood for our fishermen, initially dredging for oysters, and for the past half-century fishing for scallops.

‘Scallop stocks at present are the healthiest on record and it is one sector of the fleet that should bounce back well when markets recover from the Covid export crisis.

‘Jersey’s public have rallied behind their fishermen and women throughout the crisis, with local sales of scallops proving a popular choice.’

And Mr Thompson stressed that the JFA had long been committed to conservation.

‘We’ve been working with the government for 20 years to identify the areas that need protection and we’ve gone a long way to put that protection in place.

‘We now have more protection within three miles of our coast than anywhere else in Europe.’

As an example, he cited the 2016 campaign to protect the offshore reefs of the Minquiers and the Ecréhous, which the JFA had spearheaded.

‘The JFA, with fisheries officers, finally succeeding after an epic three-year battle,’ he said.

Decades of fishing had given Jersey’s fishermen a deep knowledge and understanding of the environment, he added.

‘The phenomenon of how invasive slipper limpets can choke out all other native species within a few years, when scallop fishing is curtailed, is an example of the knowledge that fishermen can contribute to the management of a healthy marine environment.

‘The JFA urges the National Trust to engage with fishermen, and share their knowledge of the marine environment, rather than seeking to ban established and sustainable fishing practices.’

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