Brexit: EU making Jersey fishing deals difficult says Thompson
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Don Thompson spoke to Express.co.uk about the fishing situation in Jersey following the decision to extend the amnesty to French boats to September where they will then require licences to operate in Jersey waters. But when asked whether Mr Thompson or his members have been involved in any government negotiations, he alleged he has not and any attempt to speak with his French counterparts has been met with the European Commission attempting to get involved. As a result, Mr Thompson said any chance of organising bilateral solutions has been “crushed” by the Commission as he said the body wanted to be involved in every conversation “since day one” following Brexit.
As part of the Brexit agreement, French boats are required to provide evidence they have historically operated in Jersey waters as licences are reviewed.
However, French boats protested in the waters surrounding St Helier after they claim they were not consulted on the decision and blasted the French Government for not acting fast enough.
Extensions were granted to the “grace period” meaning French boats have until September to come up with the right documentation before they are blocked out.
But Mr Thompson says morale among Jersey fishers is at an all-time low as they are angry they have not seen any real benefit from allowing French boats to continue operating despite being promised greater control over their territorial waters.
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The fishing boss also revealed that he usually had close ties with French counterparts before Brexit but now most talks are required to go through the EU Commission which makes quick solutions untenable.
He explained to Express.co.uk: “Under the old Granville Bay treaty where we jointly managed stocks in our waters, fishermen’s organisations from both sides had a very distinct role at the table where decisions were taken.
“And unfortunately, the way that French tend to deliberate things forever and ever we struggled to make decisions or take decisions.
“There is that sort of ability for us to work together, we know that, but since Brexit, it seems to be that the EU Commission wants everything to go via the Commission.
“So that any likelihood of an agreement between fishermen or between Jersey politicians in general and with the fishermen from nearby ports.
Jersey: Don Thompson says fishermen ‘fed up’
“The likelihood of that has been crushed by the EU itself, the Commission seems to want to ensure that that doesn’t happen.
“I can’t quite grasp exactly why that would be but I think that they don’t want little bilateral agreements on the side that the Commission seems to want to have the controlling hand over how everything evolves from day one.”
Mr Thompson also blasted the current negotiations with France and said any deal made with France should have been mutually beneficial.
He explained licenses could be awarded to France in exchange for Jersey fishers operating in French water.
Mr Thompson added many fishermen work closely with French merchants but said the recent shellfish ban, which prevents shellfish caught in the UK’s Class B waters from being landed in the European Union, has made relations worse.
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Fishers could treat the shellfish before they land them on the continent but many do not have the equipment to do so and the process shortens the shelf life of the shellfish.
He explains a waiving of the restrictions should be part of the licence negotiations.
Mr Thompson added: “Our fishermen, many have contracts and long-standing relationships with merchants in France, where they land direct.
“Well, all that’s been brought to a stop, as French authorities have prevented us landing in their ports as the EU Commission itself introduced regulations surrounding mussels…
“We’ve said to our government all along to take down those barriers in return for the amnesty and certainly try to get some access to French waters.”
The fishing boss also told Express.co.uk that around 200 French boats have submitted applications to operate in Jersey waters but says it is likely only 60-70 will actually be awarded.
He explains French maritime authorities were able to award themselves licences under old agreements with around 200 awarded in total.
Mr Thompson says France will present the majority of these licences to Jersey for approval despite many never visiting Jersey.
A spokesperson from the Government of Jersey told Express.co.uk: “A total of 222 applications have been received by the Government of Jersey since 1 January 2021, 47 licences have been issued to date.
“Jersey has requested that the EU submits any further data relating to existing applications by the end of July.
“It is not possible to discuss how many vessels will qualify for a licence until the additional data has been submitted via the formal EU-UK channels, and then reviewed by the Marine Resources team.”
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