Brexit fishing row explodes as French trawlermen threaten to cut Jersey’s power cables

Brexit: EU making Jersey fishing deals difficult says Thompson

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Jersey and Guernsey Ministers are expected to announce today how many licences are being issued to French fishermen in Normandy and Britanny after months of wrangling over access to English Channel waters. 169 requests for final authorisations in Jersey and 168 in Guernsey are still waiting to be approved by both British Crown Dependency governments. 

Meanwhile, the UK Government will grant licences to just 12 of 47 French vessels less than 12m long who applied to fish in the 6 to 12-mile zone off the British coast.

Ministers have also issued a further 105 licences for larger vessels, bringing the total to 1,700 boats. 

It comes as crunch negotiations took place over the last few weeks between UK, Jersey, EU and French officials on post-Brexit fishing rights in the English Channel. 

An amnesty period allowing French vessels unfettered access to Jersey waters is due to expire tomorrow – before new measures come into place.

From Friday, French vessels have to show evidence of their history fishing in Jersey waters else they face not being issued with licences.

Jersey’s government said some French vessels had provided enough evidence they had previously fished off the island.

St Helier said many still needed to submit more information and would only be granted a temporary permit until January 31 next year while a third grouping will be refused licences altogether and must stop fishing in UK waters.

It is feared however many boats that are under 12m long will not be able to obtain a licence due to the lack of satellite tracking technology, unlike larger vessels.

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Jean-Luc Hall, Director General of the National Committee for Maritime Fisheries and Marine Farming, the professional fishing body in France, said authorities had “spent months” collecting all the supporting documents needed especially for small boats that do not have a satellite tracking system.

“We gave everything,” Mr Hall stressed.

Last night, Olivier Le Nezet, President of the Regional Fisheries Committee of Brittany said French fishermen were ready to “flex their muscles” if a sufficient announcement was not forthcoming. 

Mr Le Nezet fears the fishing row could “end badly” with chiefs warning they would have to go to protest “every four to five months”.

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Jersey: Don Thompson says fishermen ‘fed up’

The chief also said that some fishermen were prepared to “cut the power supply cables” to the Channel Islands on Armanville beach in Normandy. 

The beach hosts the large 90,000-volt cable that runs across the sea bed and supplies the Island of Jersey with electricity.

France has also said it is ready to activate “restrictive measures” if it disagrees with the allocation of licences, which Jersey’s fishermen say puts their future at risk.

A Paris diplomatic source last night played down the cutting of electricity cables but stressed: “We are at the end of our tether, action will be taken in line with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.”

Don Thompson, president of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association added that if all 169 French vessels are licensed, that would far outnumber the local fleet, claiming that only around 70 of them had previously fished in the area. 

Mr Thomspson said he feels “quite disappointed with the outcome” and added: “(It) was a chance to rebalance, to see some sort of equilibrium between the size of the Jersey fleet and the number of foreign boats working in our waters.”

In response, Ian Gorst, Jersey’s External Relations Minister said he hoped that the issuing of temporary licences alongside the regular permits would be regarded as uncontentious. 

Mr Gorst made clear: “We would hope that it would be but we are not naïve.”

On the UK licences, a UK Government spokesperson, added: “The government has this year issued a large number of licences to EU vessels seeking to fish in our exclusive economic zone (12-200 nautical mile zone) and our territorial sea (6-12 nautical mile zone). 

“Our approach has been reasonable and fully in line with our commitments in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). 

“We continue to work with the Commission and the French authorities and will consider any further evidence provided to support the remaining licence applications.”

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