During a hearing with the UK Justice Committee, Senator Ian Gorst said that the Island should be able to issue permits ‘speedily’ once applications were fully completed but was uncertain whether this could be done before the deadline at the end of this month.
Earlier this year, dozens of French boats blockaded St Helier Harbour in protest against the new post-Brexit regime under which Jersey gained the sole authority to issue fishing permits for its waters.
Details of foreign vessels’ historical use of the Island’s waters are required to gain a licence.
An initial deadline of 30 April was set for applications to be completed. This has been extended twice and is now set for 30 September.
Senator Gorst said that he felt there was now a ‘very tight timescale’ to gather remaining information from licence applicants.
He said: ‘We do need to push to get the relevant information to issue the licences. The fishing community in Jersey has been frustrated for months and the fishing community in France just want it resolved. They don’t necessarily want the time to continue to be pushed out. They want to know what their future is. Are they going to get a licence? Do they meet the criteria?
‘This is why we have been encouraging, through the official channels, for the information to be provided because, once that information is provided, we think that we can issue a good number of licences pretty speedily.
‘It’s still too early to say whether we can quite get it done in the timescale that we have set ourselves. But we really hope we can.’
Also during the hearing the minister voiced disappointment at the UK parliament passing a ‘permissive extent clause’ in last year’s fishing bill, against the wishes of Jersey, to enable them to legislate for the Island if it did not meet ‘international obligations’ on fishing matters.
Senator Gorst, who was accompanied by his Guernsey counterpart Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq, said the move risked causing a ‘constitutional stand-off’ with the Crown Dependencies.
He said: ‘We weren’t pleased about it. We objected to it because it didn’t respect the constitutional position of consultation and agreement.
‘We didn’t accept the minister’s rationale for why he had introduced it and we had conversations with him and [Under-Secretary of State for Farming, Fisheries and Food] Victoria Prentis. They have given us undertakings that they will consult with us prior to ever getting into the position where they would seek to use it.
‘That has given us great comfort that it won’t be used. I have no doubt that if there is an international obligation that needs to be met by Jersey or Guernsey, we will meet it.
‘If it requires amendment to our domestic legislation, we will amend it accordingly.’