‘Talk direct to the French over fishing rather than through UK’

POLITICIANS and government officers trying to resolve the fishing crisis should speak to their French counterparts directly rather than going through the UK or Paris, the head of a cross-Channel business body has said.

To avoid confrontations such as the Harbour blockade by French trawlers in May, the Island government is being urged to engage directly with Continental authorities rather than through a third party Picture: JON GUEGAN
To avoid confrontations such as the Harbour blockade by French trawlers in May, the Island government is being urged to engage directly with Continental authorities rather than through a third party Picture: JON GUEGAN

Brian Murphy, from the Transmanche Development Group, said he thought the current communication arrangement – where official messages had to be sent through Westminster, Brussels, Paris and then on to Brittany or Normandy’s prefecture before reaching their final destination – was too bureaucratic.

He spoke as the Island neared the 30 September deadline for French fishermen to submit data proving their history of operating in Island waters to obtain a permanent post-Brexit licence to fish Jersey waters.

The deadline has twice been pushed back already.

Mr Murphy said: ‘When you can talk to the people doing the job who have got that personal identity who are not just trying to score political points it changes everything.

‘I sincerely believe that Jersey authorities, at every level, if they can speak to the relevant local authorities on the other side of the water, then they should.

‘The whole thing with fishing is that some of those Norman fishermen have clearly been fishing in Jersey waters but a lot of them have not been doing the paperwork and cannot prove that they have been fishing there regularly. Many Jersey fishermen know who they are and they could do with getting around a table and saying, “We agree to verify that this small French boat has operated here regularly”. I do not believe that they are a threat to the Jersey fleet because they have always been there.

‘It is just bureaucracy.

‘They could just say, “This is Jean-Pierre, who has fished here for years”. A lot of these fishermen have utmost respect for their colleagues from another country and we are destroying those relationships by overdoing administration and that is a great shame.’

Earlier this year, the possibility of having a locally-based fish processing plant was floated, which would allow a greater amount of locally caught produce to be sold in Jersey.

The idea arose following Brexit and Covid-related disruption which, for many Jersey fishermen, shut down their access to French ports and the European market overnight.

Mr Murphy said: ‘I do not think I would be able to comment on it from a technical perspective. But all I ever hear about the Channel Islands is that you are having labour and staffing problems there – I do not know whether a processing plant would take up a lot of people or not.

‘Brittany are leaders in processing fish and there are Japanese people who regularly go to Brittany to get advice.

‘The Bretons are way ahead of Europe on processing, so I am not sure if Jersey would be able to beat the French at their own game but maybe it is something that French fishermen and Jersey fishermen can get together on.’

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