Finance fishing boats

Jersey fishermen caught in post-Brexit row

Jersey fishermen are expressing concerns over repeated delays in post-Brexit agreements for fishing rights, as the final deadline looms for EU access to waters around British Crown dependency.

Jersey, home to over 100,000 residents, is the largest of the Channel Islands and, on a clear day, is within sight of the French coast.

Like Guernsey to the northwest, the Autonomous Territory is not part of the UK and its residents did not vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

But the two still depend on the UK for defense and international relations, leading them to the country’s winding departure from the European Union in January.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed that London will ‘take back control’ of fisheries policy, among other things, but nine months later Jersey fishermen are still waiting to see promised reduced EU access to their waters , as promised in the Brexit deal.

Tim Corson, a small boat fisherman who sells his lobster catch in France, is unhappy with the staggered deadlines for his European competitors to obtain licenses to fish off Jersey.

“It’s just delayed, delayed, delayed,” the 28-year-old, red-bearded man told AFP. “They’re extending it again, but what will happen when it runs out?”

– Day of the deadline –

France has asked the UK to issue 169 fishing licenses to its vessels, but they have to prove they fished in Channel Island waters before Brexit – and many are struggling to do so.

A first deadline for applications ended on June 30, triggering stormy protests from French fishermen that threatened to turn into a true naval incident.

As French trawlers headed for the capital St. Helier, London sent two naval patrol boats to monitor the situation, prompting Paris to respond in kind.

In order to calm the spirits, a three-month extension has been agreed and is expected to expire on Thursday.

The Jersey government said last Friday that some French vessels had provided sufficient evidence that they had previously fished off the island.

Others have yet to submit more information and will only receive a temporary permit until January 31 next year.

A third group will be denied licenses altogether and will have to stop fishing in UK waters.

How many French boats in which category will be unveiled in the coming days, raising fears of new fears on Jersey, this could trigger new protests.

“We lack patience, the fishermen too, legitimately,” French Minister for Europe, Clément Beaune, said last week.

– “Some difficult years” –

In the small port of Gorey, dominated by green hills and a 13th-century castle, Corson said Brexit had made things “more difficult” as fishermen feared French reprisals over market access.

“If we lose our market, it’s going to be a few tough years for us until we figure something out,” he added, moving large bags of bait bought in France after selling his catch there.

The Jersey fleet, a hundred small boats which fish mainly during the day, exports lobsters, crabs and scallops to Europe via French ports.

But France has said it is ready to activate “restrictive measures” if it does not agree to the allocation of the licenses, which the Jersey fishermen say endangers their future.

“The problem with the big fishing boats, they can fish in any weather and the small boats cannot, so they fish all the time when we have to stop because we are usually all day boats,” said Chris Casey in Saint-Hélier.

Casey, 62, catches the bass individually on the line of his six-meter (20-foot) boat, a practice called “singling” which he says is more durable and offers traceability through tags attached to the gills of the fish. .

– ‘Pressure’ –

Don Thompson, president of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, was initially optimistic about Brexit but now feels “quite disappointed with the outcome”.

“(It was) a chance to rebalance, to see some kind of balance between the size of the Jersey fleet and the number of foreign vessels working in our waters,” he said.

Thompson noted that if nearly 169 French vessels were licensed, it would far exceed the local fleet, saying only 70 of them had ever fished in the area.

“The sustainability of our stock at the moment is not the best. It can’t take any more pressure,” added Stephen Viney, 54.

“If we bring more boats into the area, you will end up with more and more pressure and everyone will lose because the restrictions go into effect.

“Those who have the right, who have a history of traditional fishing here … no one has a problem with them.”

acc / dd / phz / lth

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