UK and France is on a collision course over the issuing of fishing licences to small boats from the EU to fish in its territorial waters
The Government of Jersey has today, Wednesday, granted 95 fishing licences to French trawlers, after a row over post-Brexit access to waters around the British Crown dependency sparked protests.
The government in Saint Helier said it will issue 64 full licences and 31 temporary licences, in addition to the 47 vessels already given permission earlier this year.
It added that a total of 75 applications were refused.
The Government of Jersey has informed the EU which French vessels it will soon be issuing with fishing licences, and giving 30 days’ notice of the ending of current transitional arrangements.
An interim arrangement was introduced at the start of 2021, after the UK’s exit from the EU, allowing French boats holding a previous Granville Bay permit to continue operating in Jersey waters. This was to allow time for the new Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) system to be set up.
The TCA requires evidence of fishing activity over a track record period, for access to be granted.
Following the receipt of data and additional evidence in recent weeks, the Government of Jersey has confirmed it will issue 64 full licences and 31 temporary licences, on top of the 47 vessels already licensed earlier this year.
Applicant vessels therefore now fall into one of three categories:
- Vessels that have provided the necessary evidence under the terms of the TCA. These 64 vessels with receive a licence in addition to the 47 existing licence holders
- Vessels which need to provide some additional evidence before they can be licensed. These 31 vessels will receive a temporary licence, which will give them until the end of January 2022 to provide the extra information
- Vessels that do not meet the criteria and have either not fished in Jersey waters during the relevant period or have not been able to evidence their activity. These 75 vessels are being given 30 days’ notice of the end of the transitional arrangements, after which they will no longer be able to access Jersey waters.
While all unlicensed boats must stop fishing in Jersey waters in 30 days’ time, Jersey authorities will still accept and consider further data and evidence as and when it is submitted.
The licence conditions specifically regarding ‘days at sea’ and ‘gear used’ will remain suspended to allow for further discussion between Jersey, the UK, the EU and France on the interpretation of ‘extent and nature’.
The Environment Minister, Deputy John Young, said: “We are pleased that, following our requests, more data was recently supplied. This means we’re now in a position to prepare to issue these additional permits for qualifying boats, along with the provisional permissions for the vessels on the brink of providing the required evidence.
“By issuing these licences in the days ahead, we are ensuring the fishing effort in our waters is similar to pre-Brexit – those boats with an economic dependance on Jersey waters, who’ve fished here regularly before and have demonstrated it, will receive licences. We’ve been flexible in the kinds of positional evidence we’ve accepted, using VMS information, commercially available Automatic Identification System data, logbooks, chart plotters and other written information.
“The issue of ‘replacement vessels’ is still to be resolved, and we’re aware they are important to the industry as boats are regularly commissioned and decommissioned. There are a small number of these applicant vessels which require further consideration, and they will be allowed to continue operating in our waters for now while we continue discussions about how ‘replacement vessels’ should be managed.”
A list of licensed boats will be published on the UK Single Issuing Authority website.
The External Relations Minister, Senator Ian Gorst, said: “Jersey has maintained a pragmatic, reasonable and evidence-based approach throughout, extending the transitional period on a number of occasions until now, despite not being required by the TCA to do so.
“We’re now in a position to ensure those boats which have fished these waters are able to continue doing so, and therefore it is time, next month, for our transitional arrangements to come to a close.
“We thank the UK, EU and authorities in France for their efforts to provide us with the additional data, and I’m keen to pay tribute to the tireless work of our officers to pursue the information, collate it and analyse it. We will continue to have an open door to further data and evidence of fishing activity, including for vessels which have already been considered, and we look forward to working collaboratively to resolve the remaining complex issues.”