The Jersey Island fishing fleet is close to collapse over a licensing dispute

The Jersey Island fishing fleet is close to collapse as Normandy closes ports to landings. Photo courtesy of Peter Rondel

Jersey Island fishing boats have been banned from landing their catches at ports in Normandy in retaliation over new fisheries control measures issued by the island’s Government.

The port closures have left the island’s fleet close to as Jersey fishers are forced to cut back their fishing effort or tie-up altogether as they are effectively locked-out of their main market. 

The dispute between French fishermen who traditionally fished in the waters off Jersey and the Jersey Government over new licensing regulations has taken another turn following last Thursday’s (06t May) blockade and protests of the island’s main port St Helier.

It was estimated that between 50 and 60 French boats from ports in Normandy participated in the event that was monitored by two Royal Naval boats; the HMS Severn and HMS Tamar.

Representatives from the protesting fishers met with government officials onboard a French fishing vessel in St Helier later that day, but talks ended in deadlock, leaving the French frustrated with the outcome and leaving for home on a sour note.

It has been reported that the Lan Manche authorities have officially notified the Jersey Government that the island’s fishing vessels will not be allowed to land their catch in the region until further notice.

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The ports involved include Granville, Dielette and Barneville-Carteret, where a Jersey boat was turned away from landing its catch of cuttlefish on Thursday evening.

This action by the French authorities will have a detrimental affect to the island’s fishing industry who depend on exporting their catches into Europe via the French ports in Normandy.

Jersey’s External Relations Minister Ian Gorst said: “We regret this action and don’t believe it is compliant with the terms of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. For that reason, we will refer the notice of this decision immediately to the European Commission.”

Jersey fleet “could be lost”

Michael Michieli, owner of local fishing vessel, L’Ecume II, said that there were now only a small number of Jersey vessels going to sea as the local market was too small to support them.

Asked by the Jersey Evening Post if his business could collapse Mr Michieli answered, “Yes – if there is nowhere for boats to sell any of their products. The Island can only sustain a small market with a small amount of lobsters, crabs and a bit of fish. It is a limited market; it and the fleet will collapse. It probably has about another year – half the fleet is already up for sale.

“The younger guys are not likely to be able to keep their payments up on their boats. Myself, I am not going to get any [financial] help. This could be it. I bought my boat big enough so I can export fish directly to France but if I cannot export, my business cannot survive.”

Asked how much the fleet was losing, Mr Michieli said he was unable to say but, with the French markets closed to Jersey, he was not making any money.

“I have still got bills that I need to pay – it is about £13,500 each year for insurance and about £5,000 in mooring fees alone.

“I cannot really speak for them. There are still some boats with static gear carrying on, but they are not going flat out. All boats with mobile gear I can speak for – they are 100% tied up.”

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