‘Struggling’ fishermen seek ban on foreign whelk and scallop vessels

THE Jersey Fishermen’s Association is calling for a ban on foreign vessels catching scallops and whelks in the Island’s waters, as members claim they have been barred from exporting the species to France.

Don Thompson. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30381910)
Don Thompson. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON. (30381910)

In a strongly worded statement, the Island’s fleet has claimed that it has had to ‘watch helplessly as a large fleet of powerful foreign boats has decimated Jersey’s scallop and whelk grounds’, while they have remained ‘tied up’.

Tensions between local and continental fishermen have been growing for some time after the UK and EU’s post-Brexit trade deal, signed on Christmas Eve, effectively brought to an end the Bay of Granville Treaty, which had governed fishing arrangements between Jersey and France in the Island’s waters.

Under the new regime, foreign vessels were required to apply to Jersey authorities for a licence to fish its waters and needed to prove that they had done this previously.

External Relations Minister Ian Gorst granted an amnesty last month, giving affected boats until the end of April to complete the necessary paperwork.

In the meantime, Island vendors have complained of added bureaucracy when trying to land catches in France, which is by far their largest export market.

Now, the Jersey Fishermen’s Association is calling for firm action to be taken, claiming the EU has downgraded the Island’s waters so that certain shellfish can no longer be exported unless they are ready for human consumption, a stance which has left the industry ‘struggling for survival’.

‘The situation remains extremely tense and anger amongst fishermen has reached boiling point,’ a statement says.

‘After the EU recently downgraded Jersey’s clean waters to category B, resulting in Jersey catches being impounded by French Customs and Jersey’s fleet having to remain tied up, Jersey fishermen have had to watch helplessly as a large fleet of powerful foreign boats has decimated Jersey’s scallop and whelk grounds under an amnesty agreement sanctioned by Jersey’s External Relations Minister.

‘Morale has fallen to an all-time low with Jersey’s fishermen feeling betrayed and neglected by our own government.’

The statement adds that ministers have refused to meet the association to ‘discuss solutions’ and that the frictionless trade promised by the EU-UK trade deal had ‘not materialised’.

Association president Don Thompson said that he believed the EU ‘intends to go to any lengths’ to punish the UK and Crown Dependencies for Brexit.

‘Our ministers appear willing to allow this ridiculous and unacceptable situation to continue, in the mistaken belief that the EU might otherwise reinstate the Granville Bay Treaty,’ he said.

‘Jersey Fishermen’s Association has prepared a set of proposals, backed by a small number of backbench politicians, aimed at preventing further decimation of the Island’s fish stocks and marine resource.

‘Closing our waters to fishing by EU vessels for all those species that our fleet are banned from landing and exporting, as outlined in the proposals, would be entirely justified and would, within days, bring about a solution.’

The government was contacted for comment on the matter but the JEP did not receive a response before going to print.

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