THE head of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association has said he hopes the government will help the community develop a fish processing plant in the Island.
Don Thompson said while he was ‘optimistic’ for a new facility, he described the conditions for the fishing industry as at ‘its worst since after the Second World War’ – adding that it had become ‘unviable’ for some fishermen to operate.
Currently there is very little local fish and shellfish sold in Island supermarkets, with the idea of a processing plant floated again in May 2021 by then-Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham at the height of the post-Brexit fishing dispute.
At the time, then-Senator Farnham said this could be done in partnership between the private sector and government.
The current government unveiled a £300,000 scheme this month, which will see financial assistance given to help cover rising operational costs, such as fuel, staffing and increased safety requirements, as well as longer-term business investment.
Mr Thompson said there had been no further progress on a proposed facility.
He said: ‘We would hope that the government would assist with [the fish processing facility]. It could be more than a fish processing facility, we could get a fishing village down there, with merchants and various bits and pieces down there.
‘In terms of who else or what else would be included, we could have our own fisheries department. It would be excellent to see our own space for training – a dedicated training centre for workers would be a good concept.’
Mr Thompson said the fishing industry still required support in order to adapt, following the impact of Brexit.
‘I really don’t know, it looks unlikely that the government will fund it [the fish processing facility] this year. Jersey’s fishing facility industry would need support to adapt.
‘Fishermen have been going to sea and for many it is not a viable business. [Economic Development Minister] Deputy Kirsten Morel wants to see this industry thrive and re-build itself.
‘The fishing industry is at its lowest point since World War Two, in terms of fleet numbers. With the Brexit deal, impact of Covid and Ukraine war, it’s created a perfect storm,’ said Mr Thompson.
The proposed fish processing facility could help the Island tap into international markets outside of Europe ‘if we can process correctly’, added Mr Thompson.
Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel said: ‘Our current priority is the development and delivery of the £300,000 Marine Support Scheme, which will provide financial assistance to the capture fisheries sector in a similar manner to neighbouring jurisdictions. We are working closely with the industry to design and implement this new scheme.
‘Consideration of the need for a fish-processing facility is a longer-term option and would need rigorous economic analysis before we could commit taxpayers’ money. Our immediate focus is on providing the necessary support to retain an economically viable fleet alongside a sustainable stock management regime.
‘Jersey has fantastic quality seafood and the industry is an important part of our cultural heritage. It is at significant risk if not supported by our community, which is why support for fishing is extremely important at this time – hence our recent announcement on the Marine Support Scheme. We will continue to work closely with the sector through the Marine Economy Advisory Group to develop a long-term sustainable plan for the future.’
lReport on licensing conditions for French fishermen: page 8.