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Jersey calms fishing rights storm with temporary permits

Published on September 24, 2021

Jersey said on Friday it would grant temporary licences to EU trawlermen in the dispute over fishing rights that erupted into a full-blown diplomatic incident earlier this year.

The Channel island’s executive said following talks with representatives from France’s Normandy region, new licences for EU vessels would be issued next week, with temporary permits for those that need more time to provide documentation.

The issue of access to waters off Jersey and neighbouring Guernsey, both off France’s northern coast, has sparked a series of indignant exchanges between London and Paris amid generally deteriorating relations since Britain left the European Union.

In May, as tensions over access to the self-governing crown dependencies boiled over, French trawlers briefly encircled Jersey’s main port, leading to a standoff that saw Britain send two naval boats, shadowed by French coastal patrol vessels.

In the aftermath, one French minister threatened to cut off electricity to Jersey if a resolution could not be reached.

British authorities have asked EU fishermen, most of whom operate out of Normandy and Brittany, to prove how long they have been fishing in the waters when applying for licenses.

For smaller boats without satellite tracking systems, in particular, giving proof of their operating history in has been difficult.

The Jersey government said it would grant further temporary licenses to those vessels that could qualify, if they were to submit more information, setting a January 31 deadline to provide further paperwork.

“I have been pleased to see the progress made in recent weeks, with more information coming through,” Jersey’s Minister for the Environment John Young said.

“We must protect our waters from over-fishing, ensuring activity is sustainable and in line with the levels of fishing effort we saw before Brexit,” he added.

On Thursday, the French government called for 169 vessels to be granted definitive access to British waters off Jersey before their existing temporary licences expired in a matter of days.

Minister of the sea Annick Girardin warned if permanent permits could not be provided then France would seek to impose retaliatory measures against Britain through the EU.

Jersey did not indicate how many permits it would grant next week. Decisions are also expected in Guernsey, where 86 licence applications are awaiting validation.