‘French fishermen want direct talks with Jersey’

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Yesterday French vessels blockaded three Channel ports – St Malo, Ouistreham and Calais – in the latest stage of the long-running dispute between the British and French over post-Brexit fishing rights.

Chris Le Masurier, of the Jersey Oyster Company, who delivered produce to St Malo yesterday, said that the fishers were protesting against the political process going through the EU and UK rather than being settled locally.

He added that he was delayed for an hour because of the protest and afterwards met Pascal Lecler, who chairs the Ille-et-Vilaine Fisheries Committee, who presented him with a Breton flag and asked him to pass a message to the Jersey government.

‘It was a protest by the French fishermen to make their government aware that they want to be involved in their own destiny,’ Mr Le Masurier said. ‘The Breton and Norman fishermen want to talk directly with Jersey like they used to with the Bay of Granville Treaty, rather than the process going through London, Brussels and Paris.

‘They want to negotiate their rights to fish in waters they have historically used rather then their rights being used for political gain. At the moment everyone is losing out because of this Brexit process – in Jersey and France.’

He said that he spoke with Mr Lecler, who told him he was ‘welcome in the port’, after the protest ended.

‘I was delayed for an hour because I was allotted a slot at the time of the protest, which was at 8am. I was skippering the vessel. After that I moved alongside one of the French boats for a chat. I spoke to Pascal Lecler, the chairman of the fisheries committee in Brittany. He said that he wanted me to pass a message to the Jersey government and that was to come and talk directly with Normandy and Brittany. He gave me a Breton flag and I then dropped off all my seafood and returned to the Island,’ Mr Le Masurier said.

He added that he had been continually frustrated when trying to contact the government to air concerns over the situation.

The discontent stems from the imposition of a new post-Brexit fisheries regime on 1 January under which Jersey gained the sole right to grant licences for commercial usage of its waters and it was agreed to restrict access for EU vessels to UK waters.

A total of 116 permanent licences have now been issued to French boats by the Jersey authorities, as well as a further 46 temporary permits which are due to expire on 31 January. However, 55 vessels were denied access on the grounds that they could not provide sufficient evidence of historic use of Jersey’s waters.

French Sea Minister Annick Girardin, who earlier this year threatened to cut off the Island’s electricity supply over the dispute, last week accused Jersey of ‘an unwillingness to co-operate’ on the matter and of threatening French fishers.

Meanwhile, the Assistant Environment Minister, Deputy Gregory Guida, said that he expected ‘more devious’ action from the French and branded Mme Girardin’s comments as ‘complete nonsense’.

Yesterday a programme to financially support Jersey’s fishing industry was extended to the end of the year.

Between May and August the Fisheries Support Scheme provided £120,000 of funding for the industry. Fisheries businesses will now be able to continue claiming fixed-cost and salary support until 31 December, with a further £400,000 set aside for the purpose.

The scheme’s objectives are to ensure that the ‘core infrastructure and critical mass’ of the industry continues to operate and to ‘provide bridging support during the period of disruption to export routes and market access’.

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