“Jersey is in the middle of a battle that is beyond it”: the Channel Island in the uncertainty of tensions over fishing licenses

Faced with the onslaught of rain and squalls, Steph Noel gave up going out to sea, Monday 1is November, to fish for shellfish and lobsters for which Jersey waters are famous. His 8-meter-long boat, the Bellbird, has remained firmly attached to the quays of the city of Saint-Hélier, like the entire flotilla of the Channel Island, while waiting for a clear sky. “Maybe later in the week”, hopes Steph Noel, 52 years of which thirty-five years to deposit his records in the direction of the coasts of the department of Manche, located about twenty kilometers.

The weather may allow Jersey fishermen to go out to sea this week, but France could decide otherwise. The ban for Breton and Norman ports to accept the product of their fishing figures among the measures brandished by the government to protest against the number of licenses, considered too low, granted to French vessels to allow them access. to the territorial waters of the British Crown’s dependence. France also plans to systematize customs controls and threatened, at the end of October, to “Review energy supply” supplied by EDF in Jersey.

Pending the outcome of ongoing discussions between the United Kingdom, Jersey, France and the European Commission, the Aqua-Mar fishmonger has decided to suspend its activity as long as there is a risk that its merchandise cannot be sent from the other side of the Channel. Main intermediary between local fishermen and the mainland, the company, located in the port of Saint-Hélier, this year sold a large part of its 420 tonnes of seafood in Saint-Malo (Ille-et-Vilaine) .

Read the report: Article reserved for our subscribers Between the fishermen of Jersey and Cotentin, the cumbersome neighborhood of Brexit

“We need you more than you need us”, believes its founder, Tony Porritt, seated in an office adjoining the shellfish storage basins. Before the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU), 80% of the fishing vessels present off Jersey flew the French flag. For its part, the island depends 80% on France to sell its cakes, whelks or spider crabs, from where they are exported throughout Europe. In his forty-year career, the now retired has always maintained good relations with his French colleagues. “The question goes far beyond the fishing industry, he regrets. Jersey is in the middle of an overwhelming battle. “

Evidence sometimes deemed insufficient

The island has never been a member of the EU and its inhabitants were not invited to participate in the Brexit referendum. The Granville Bay agreements, signed in 2000 after ten years of negotiations to pacify relations between fishermen in the area, were swept away by the treaty regulating relations between the EU and the United Kingdom following the divorce. “The text enacts a simple rule: a boat which has fished for more than ten days per year in Jersey waters between 2017 and 2020 has the right to obtain a license”, explains Gregory Guida, assistant minister of interior and environment of the island government.

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“Jersey is in the middle of a battle that is beyond it”: the Channel Island in the uncertainty of tensions over fishing licenses