‘Armageddon’ fear over new fishing clash with French

FEARS are growing that there could be further clashes with the French as the clock ticks down to a deadline to resolve the post-Brexit fishing crisis.

Picture: JON GUEGAN.
Picture: JON GUEGAN.

Officials are hoping to avoid a repeat of the May scenes when 60 Norman and Breton vessels blockaded the Harbour after being given licences to fish in Jersey waters for as little as 11 days a year.

The resolution of the dispute hangs on French fishermen providing the correct historical data which would show they had previously worked in Jersey waters and would therefore qualify for the desired permit.

Assistant Environment Minister Gregory Guida said that, despite having asked the French authorities to submit the data last month, he had so far received nothing. There are now less than two weeks to go before the 1 July deadline.

One Jersey fisherman said that if the situation was not resolved, a new protest could be twice as bad as the May one, warning it would be like ‘Armageddon in Jersey’s waters’.

Following May’s demonstration, authorities in Normandy closed three of their ports to Jersey fishing vessels – cutting off their access to European markets overnight.

Days later Jersey’s government announced, ‘in a sign of good faith’, that it would be giving the skippers of already licensed vessels more time to submit the evidence required to obtain the correct licence.

Deputy Guida said: ‘You have two stages at the moment. There are the vessels which have the transponder [over 12 metres] – those ones have been issued with licences but we are still waiting for extra data from the French authorities for the extra days on their licences.

‘Then we have another lot of boats – a large quantity – [under 12 metres] who have submitted evidence to us to show their fishing history. That evidence is currently being scrutinised which is not an easy process and much more complex than the larger vessels.’

The Deputy added that he believed it was the authorities withholding data rather than fishermen, and thought protests could happen again if no progress was made.

‘Absolutely. It could definitely happen again. It is a shame how the French are pitting their fishermen against us. It is very sad.

‘We have agreed that we will accept their historical [fishing] effort and we have not closed off our waters. We have told them that the number of days they fished for in any of the last three years they will be able to fish for this year,’ he said.

‘It might be taking a long time to send it across or it might be a strategy [by the French authorities]. We cannot assume anything.’

Meanwhile, Peter Rondel, skipper of the Peter Michael, said that if vessels under 12 metres also did not receive the licences they wanted, any new protest could be ‘twice as bad as the one in May’.

He added: ‘The original protest was only 12-metre-plus boats but if the all the vessels under 12 metres come too then it will be double the amount. If it does not get sorted it is going to be Armageddon in Jersey’s waters.’

‘If the French act correctly and give the data over [for 12-metre vessels] then there should be no issues but if they have not and still think they have the rights then it will be a bit of a losing battle for us.

‘‘At the moment tensions have eased as everyone is exporting OK and it is all happy families but it will just take one thing to kick off and then we will be back to where we were again.’

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