Jersey: Don Thompson says fishermen ‘fed up’
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Don Thompson spoke with Express.co.uk and revealed the dire situation for Jersey fishermen as he warned the previously close relationship between government and those on the ground has soured over the French fishing licence row. Mr Thompson explained many fishers would love to see reciprocal licences awarded for Jersey boats to operate in French waters but currently, those plans have been ignored. He warns the situation has turned “almost hostile” with fishermen in “anarchy” over the ongoing row on French boats in Jersey waters.
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.
He told Express.co.uk: “We normally work quite closely with our government.
“It’s easy enough to just pick up the phone to politicians and the Minister for Environment [with some] living just down the road from me and it’s very easy to contact them.
“Normally we have a good relationship, it’s been almost hostile over the past few months especially since the initial amnesty extension in May.
“Now another extension has caused real anarchy amongst fishermen, they’re just absolutely fed up.
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“And one of the things that we’ve always said is, why give an amnesty to allow uncontrolled fishing to carry on in our waters by French fishermen without asking for anything in return?”
Mr Thompson added many fishermen work closely with French merchants but say the recent shellfish ban which prevents shellfish which is caught in the UK’s Class B waters from being landed in the European Union.
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.
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…
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“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.”
Mr Thompson claims not a single boat has received a licence to operate in French waters since the dispute came to blows earlier this year.
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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