French fishermen fined for illegal fishing in Jersey waters

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TWO French fishermen who caught whelks in the Island’s territorial waters without a licence have been fined £3,000 each.

Fishing-boat captain Sebastien Martin (43) and boat owner Eddy Blanchet (49) used whelk pots within Jersey’s waters during May and June this year – but claimed they did so by mistake.

A bitter dispute over how many French boats were granted licences by the Island post-Brexit resulted in vessels from Normandy and Brittany blockading St Helier Harbour last spring at the height of tensions, with the UK sending two naval vessels to the Island in response to the crisis.

Both men pleaded guilty at the Magistrate’s Court yesterday to fishing in Jersey’s territorial waters without a licence but said they had not intended to break the rules.

Legal adviser Sophie Lister, prosecuting, said that Jersey fisheries officers conducting a patrol had been alerted to the French vessel by their tracking system, and discovered whelk pots that belonged to it inside Jersey’s territorial waters.

She said it was unknown how many hauls of whelks may have been collected by the boat, but that each one could have been worth around £200.

Senior fisheries officer David Mettram told the court that there had been confusion surrounding French fishing rights in Jersey’s waters since Britain left the EU, with a reciprocal agreement under the previous Granville Bay Treaty being replaced by the post-Brexit Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement, which meant French vessels must demonstrate that they had fished in the Island’s waters for at least 11 days per year in recent years.

Mr Mettram said: ‘The vessel did not demonstrate this, so it did not qualify for a licence.’

The French fishermen followed proceedings via an interpreter.

Martin said: ‘It was an accident, it was a genuine mistake.’

Blanchet added: ‘It wasn’t intentional.’

Magistrate Bridget Shaw accepted that they had co-operated with the authorities and had pleaded guilty at their first appearance, so said she was imposing lower fines than she could have done.

She said: ‘It appears to me that this was carelessness rather than a deliberate act.’

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