France lifts ban on Channel Island fishing boats

French fishing boat blockade of St Helier harbour. Picture: JON GUEGAN

In a statement on Monday night, the Government of Jersey said the Island would be giving recently licensed French vessels until 1 July to provide further evidence of their track record which is required to allow them to continue fishing in the Island’s waters.

‘It has been made clear that any outstanding evidence must be provided during this period,’ the statement added.

Days after matters came to a head with a high profile protest from French fishermen in Jersey’s harbour, the Environment Minister is expected to make a further announcement about postponing aspects of the licence conditions for French fishermen in the States on Tuesday.

The Government of Jersey has also sent its response on the latest fishing policy issues to the UK, which has in turn written to the European Commission.

And Jersey has confirmed that it remains open to considering a range of evidence of a qualifying fishing vessel’s track record, and that it will amend licences if further evidence is provided.

The extension to 1 July applies only to VMS vessels now licensed under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement and is not an extension of the previous Bay of Granville amnesty, which provided a general extension for all VMS vessels licensed under that agreement.

According to the government, the letter also confirms that Jersey is ready to act ‘swiftly’ to ensure that vessels which submit the required additional evidence to demonstrate their previous fishing record in Jersey waters will have that reflected in their licence and their activities will not be disrupted.

External Relations Minister Ian Gorst said: ‘Jersey would like to move beyond recent events and focus on finding a resolution. We stand by our approach to implementing the TCA and we will continue to manage our own waters in line with the agreement. We have answered the questions that the commission asked about our approach.

‘The people of Jersey are passionate about proactively managing our waters in line with sustainability principles. Therefore, new measures such as limits on dredging and temporarily closing certain areas to carry out scientific studies are appropriate.

‘Jersey understands the challenges faced by both Jersey and French fishermen and we have been flexible this year, as shown by the amnesty period we introduced. We are happy to continue this approach, having listened directly to French fishermen’s concerns on Thursday. Therefore, the Minister for the Environment has agreed to postpone aspects of the licence conditions and will provide more information in a statement to the States Assembly tomorrow, Tuesday 11 May.

‘Additionally, the Minister for the Environment has redeployed fluent French speaking staff already employed by the government to the Marine Resources team. This will ease communication for French fishers who contact the team directly, and will provide a direct phone line for them to do so. This is in addition to the formal channels of communication that must be followed under the trade agreement.’

He added: ‘We remain committed to continued close working with the European Commission in order to help fishermen adjust to the new trade agreement.’

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