Gilles Ménard diverted the blame onto Jersey’s government for preventing the captain of the Alizé 3 from accessing its ‘usual fishing areas’. The Mayor, who was quoted in the newspaper Ouest-France, made no reference to the ground’s protected status.
During the incident, which took place on Tuesday morning, Jersey fishermen spotted the trawler moving through the protected zone, and fisheries officers, alongside a number of local boats, went out to intercept the vessel.
Those who overheard conversations say that, despite assertions from officers on board the Norman Le Brocq fisheries protection vessel that he should not be working in the area, the skipper remained adamant that he could. The captain also claimed that authorities in Granville, his home port, told him he could work there.
The incident followed the suspension of conditions imposed on the licences of around 40 French vessels after 70 Breton and Norman boats blockaded the Harbour.
According to Assistant Environment Minister Gregory Guida, the suspension only related to ‘nature and extent’ conditions which govern where a fishermen operates, how they fish and what they fish for.
He added that despite this, two ‘environmental’ conditions remained in force – no trawling in the area where bream reproduce and limiting the quantity of dredging gear that a boat could pull.
In the story published by Ouest-France, Mr Ménard defended the skipper of the offending vessel saying: ‘The Granville boats find themselves hostage to a situation where arbitrariness seems to reign.
‘The political decision in Jersey to redefine the conditions for awarding licences for French boats is not acceptable. If it is not reviewed, an entire section of the local economy will be affected, with disastrous consequences on employment.’ The report went on to say that a banner supporting Granville fishermen would soon be hung on the front of the town hall.
Meanwhile, a senator for the La Manche region has come under fire after encouraging the skippers of Norman and Breton vessels with licence issues to contact Jersey authorities directly in an effort to speed up any potential issues.
Appearing during a meeting with aggrieved fishermen last week, Béatrice Gosselin said that some historical fishing data submitted by fishermen was taking too long to be transferred from EU authorities to Jersey. She also criticised a threat to cut off the Island’s electricity supply made by her country’s Minister of the Sea, Annick Girardin, labelling it as a ‘media stunt’.
Her remarks, and similar comments made by a deputy from the same region, have been criticised by Normandy’s Regional Fisheries Committee, which warned that they had the potential to derail any negotiations.
A committee spokesperson said: ‘Encouraging fishermen – by playing on their legitimate fear for the future – to provide their data directly will allow Jersey, London’s vanguard, to gradually force Norman fishing to disappear from its waters with random and individual measures.’
External Relations Minister Ian Gorst and Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham visited Downing Street this week to meet UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson about the ongoing dispute.