Fishermen send a ‘stand firm’ message to the government

JERSEY’S government needs to ‘stand firm’ and not give in to the demands of the French, the head of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association has said.

Don Thompson. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30793917)
Don Thompson. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (30793917)

Amid the escalating diplomatic row over access to Jersey’s waters, Don Thompson (pictured below)said it would be ‘unacceptable’ to Islanders if ministers caved in to French tactics. Government officials, including Assistant Environment Minister and French-speaker Deputy Gregory Guida, met protesting French fishermen in a bid to quell the crisis.

Mr Thompson said: ‘The message to government is we must stand firm here.

‘We do not want to discriminate against the French fleet unfairly, but we are not able to with the TECA anyway. If Senator Gorst wants to negotiate that would be totally unacceptable to the public in Jersey and, frankly, unacceptable to our fishermen.’

Under the terms of the post-Brexit Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement, which replaced the Bay of Granville Treaty, French vessels can only access Jersey’s waters if they have documents proving historic activity in the Island. An amnesty period allowing continental vessels to get the required paperwork in order to prove historic activity in the Island’s waters expired at the end of last month.

And Mr Thompson said if the External Relations Minister allowed another amnesty for European boats of more than 12 metres that would be ‘a complete breach of our own legislation’.

The States approved a fishing licences law last month allowing Jersey the power to manage its territorial waters and control access, which came into force at the end of April.

Mr Thompson said it was ‘disappointing’ that two Jersey boats had joined the protest, including Jersey’s largest oyster producer, Chris Le Masurier. Mr Thompson said one of the boat owners ‘was actually French himself and the other one is not a fishing boat but a freight boat’. Mr Le Masurier was there ‘to protect his own interests’, said Mr Thompson, and had been advised ‘it was not the way to do it’.

‘The rest of the 132 fishermen are standing absolutely shoulder to shoulder. They realise we must not give in here,’ said Mr Thompson.

The JFA president said the presence of the up to 60-strong French fleet in St Helier Harbour highlighted the disparities with Jersey’s ‘little fleet’.

He said: ‘Now the public and the rest of the world can see the size of the French fleet. Everyone now understands Jersey needs to be careful with the licences and controlling that fishing effort. We have to manage stocks sustainably.’

Mr Thompson said the French fleet wanted licences ‘without conditions’, which was a ‘non-starter’.

Asked whether there would be a resolution, Mr Thompson said: ‘I foresee that the problem is not going to go away, unfortunately.

‘Some of the demands that have been made already over just four months – Jersey has effectively given in and gone subservient to those demands, which has resulted in the situation here. This will just continue as we try to manage our fish stocks.’

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