MEP wants ‘concrete solutions’ on fishing

THE EU must maintain ‘utmost firmness’ in the Jersey fishing crisis, a French MEP has said in a letter to the European Commission’s president.

French fishing boats blockade Jersey Harbour over new licensing rules from the Government of Jersey Picture: DAVID FERGUSON
French fishing boats blockade Jersey Harbour over new licensing rules from the Government of Jersey Picture: DAVID FERGUSON

With one week to go until the licensing amnesty period expires, Stéphanie Yon-Courtin has told Ursula von der Leyen that the UK government is failing to properly implement commitments set out in the post-Brexit Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement.

The letter, which was also signed by Pierre Karleskind, the EU fisheries committee chairman, along with five Normandy politicians, calls for ‘concrete solutions’ to be found to the protracted diplomatic row between France, the EU, the UK and Jersey.

A twice-extended amnesty period, which has allowed some French fishermen to operate virtually restriction-free in Jersey waters, is due to expire on Thursday night.

Beyond that time, any fishing vessel which has not provided data demonstrating a history of operating in Island waters will be denied access.

The letter said: ‘In December 2020, you declared that the trade and co-operation agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom guaranteed “total predictability for our [French] fishermen”.

‘Yet our fishermen are struggling to see the geopolitical weight of the European Commission.

‘On 30 September 2021, the temporary licences giving them access to Jersey waters will end. For the time being, “total predictability” remains uncertain in their eyes,’ the letter said.

‘This situation – which has potential serious economic and social consequences – is the symbol of the pure bad faith of the British government in its interpretation of the TCA. The technical issues [of the new fishing vessel licensing scheme] are the Trojan horse of their political will not to implement the commitments that you personally negotiated and concluded with the current UK Prime Minister,’ the letter continued.

Last week, one Norman fisheries group claimed that, with fewer than ten days to go until the 30 September deadline, there were still 80 French vessels under 12 metres long waiting to receive a licence. At the time, they claimed that UK and Jersey authorities were requesting ‘vessel-monitoring system’ data from them.

They claimed this was not possible due to the technology rarely being installed on small boats.

Ms Yon-Courtin raised the same concern and other issues – claiming that, under the TCA, there could be problems if fishermen wished to replace their vessels and continue working in Jersey waters, a lack of clarity over permitted trawler net hole sizes and the final restrictions or conditions due to be placed on vessels fishing in the Island’s waters.

She added: ‘In the face of these threats, we call on you to show the utmost firmness, so that fishing remains a priority for the application of the TCA, on the same level as all the other questions still outstanding.’

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