France fury! Jersey lash out as French vessel intercepted after ‘serious’ breach in water

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A Normandy registered vessel, based in Granville, was caught fishing in an environmentally protected area of Jersey’s waters yesterday without permission. Under States of Jersey law, fishing is illegal in the bream-spawning grounds to the north of the British Crown Dependency.

Jersey Government ministers deployed protection boats to send the vessel away and have described the breach as “serious”.

Deputy Gregory Guida, Jersey’s Assistant Environment Minister also added they would lodging a complaint with the European Commission because of the “serious breach”.

In a statement this afternoon, he added of the latest saga: “We issued licences to French boats at the beginning of this month with new conditions.

“Those included the nature and extent of their fishing – where they fish, how they fish and what they fish for – and also two environmental conditions: to protect an area where bream reproduce and to limit the quantity of dredging gear that a boat can pull.”

Jersey and France have been at loggerheads for the last two weeks after the Channel Island authorities attempted to introduce new strict post-Brexit licensing laws for fishing.

But France and Britain both deployed maritime patrol vessels to the area after a flotilla of French trawlers sailed to Jersey’s main harbour, St Helier, to protest against the new legislation.

French fishermen say they are being unfairly deprived of access to rich fishing grounds off the coast of the self-governing British Crown Dependency.

Jersey says it is following the rules for issuing licenses set out in Britain’s post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union but agreed to suspended full implementation until July 1st as a “sign of goodwill.”

Officials in Paris and St Helier are currently undertaking crunch negotiations to resolve the licence crisis which understands are “difficult” for both sides.

Deputy Gilda claimed the French authorities told their fishermen the licences were “null and void and they could go wherever they wanted whenever they wanted.”

Referring to yesterday’s incident, he concluded: “The problem is that this boat was probably thinking it was acting in good faith, following the rules set out by its own department, but it was illegal in Jersey.

“‘It is a very small area and fishermen are prohibited from working there so that we can study the reproduction of bream in Jersey.”

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Cabinet Office minister Lord Frost, who supported Jersey ministers in the row claimed “too many” in Europe had thought there would be no change in fishing arrangements for five and a half years.

Addressing MPs, he added: “We have the right to regulate our own waters in a totally different way, to licence fishing vessels and so on, and obviously getting used to that is at the root of some of the difficulty.”

Lord Frost said he was sure the Jersey situation would “settle down” but he added: “We don’t choose gunboat diplomacy but obviously we were reacting to a demonstration that could have caused severe practical problems for Jersey, and it didn’t cause any problems, and I like to think that our naval presence was part of that.”

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