The States of Guernsey in the English Channel has issued notice to French fishing boats, that permits will be required to continue fishing the islands 6-12 mile zone after Brexit.

The Notice also states that the permits will only be issued to boats that can prove they have a history of fishing the Bailiwick waters, as they will not be issuing any permits to new fishing vessels wanting to enter into fishing in their zone.

The Notice came as a shock to the French fishermen as it was only issues on the eve of Brexit. The Notice will come into effect today and will run until the 31 December 2020, or beyond if fisheries negotiations are extended.

In the press release the States claim that the government there has taken these steps in order to provide a stable basis for negotiations on the UK-EU future relationship.

Author: Oliver McBride.

Sources: States of Guernsey and Sonia Krimi

French fishing boats without licences will be excluded from the 6-12 mile zone as of today

The press release goes on to say

“For the UK, this means that EU law will still apply and fisheries matters will continue to be covered by the Common Fisheries Policy meaning that fisheries access will be unchanged during the Transition Period due to the Withdrawal Agreement.  Bailiwick fishing vessels will continue to benefit from the access and trading rights enjoyed while the UK was a member of the EU. In respect of the Bailiwick, the UK decision to withdraw from the London Fisheries Convention made in 2017 will also take effect on the date that the UK leaves the EU. The London Fisheries Convention provides for access for French vessels which will now end on 31 January 2020.  

“To provide the same stability provided by the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement in relation to French vessels in the UK’s waters but in Bailiwick waters, the governments of Guernsey, Alderney and Sark have implemented a package of measures.  These measures will provide for continuity for those French vessels who previously fished in Bailiwick waters on a time limited basis. This includes retaining the legislation which gives effect to the London Fisheries Convention (such as the Fishing Boats (France) Designation Order 1965) and the introduction of an authorisation regime for individual French vessels.  

“The new authorisation regime will assist France to meet its own EU obligation under EU Regulation 2017/2403 (on the sustainable management of external fishing fleets), known as ‘SMEFF’.  French vessels will need a SMEFF authorised document issued by Guernsey, before they can be authorised by France, to allow them to fish in Bailiwick waters under the same conditions as the London Fisheries Convention.  The SMEFF authorisation regime will only apply for the duration of the Transition Period (that is until 31 December 2020, unless it is extended).

“This arrangement is without prejudice to the negotiations on the UK-EU relationship or the Bailiwick’s part in that, will not provide any new rights for French vessels in Bailiwick waters and should ensure that there is no new fishing effort in Bailiwick waters.”

Chart of potting and trawling zones around the islands

The President of the Policy & Resources Committee Deputy for the States of Guernsey, Gavin St Pier has said “This proactive step is aligned with the intention that the Transition Period provides continuity and stability to enable negotiations to take place.  This is an important step to assist the negotiations during this year and to ensure that we protect our good neighbourhood relationship with France and in particular Normandy. It also demonstrates the greater control that the Bailiwick has over its own waters following the extension of our territorial seas in 2019, a step taken to prepare for the UK’s exit from the EU.”

The President of the Committee for Economic Development, Deputy Charles Parkinson said “Our trading relationship with France is important, particularly in terms of landing fish into Normandy.  This continuity arrangement helps to protect the interests of Bailiwick fishermen during the Transition Period, including that trading relationship. We will need to negotiate our own future fisheries management arrangements that will suit the needs of the Bailiwick from 2021 onwards. We have achieved this while ensuring that there is no greater fishing activity by EU vessels in our waters during this time, it does not prejudice the future negotiations, it does not provide new rights of French vessels, and is for a time limited period only.”   

In France the move has been heavily condemned by fishermen and politicians.

Sonia Krimi, Member of Parliament for La Manche hit hard at the action saying “Following the decision, against all odds, of the government of Guernsey, to close the fishing areas to French vessels, I firmly condemn this hasty and disrespectful decision of the friendship of our two countries.

“The placing of individual fishing licenses for French vessels still remains crowded and does not meet the minimum requirements to ensure continuity of fishing on the Normandy coasts in the coming weeks. This political decision involves an inconsiderate risk for our sector.

“State Services, the Prefecture of Lan Manche and the Ministry of Agriculture are currently in contact with the authorities of Guernsey in order to find a rapid solution for the resumption, as soon as possible, of French fishing, in the waters of the Anglo-Normandy islands.”

Some in the fishing industry in the south of England have also expressed their concerns and disappointment over the decision and the way it has been handled.

Sonia Krimi, Member of Parliament for La Manche

States of Guernsey Issue Permit Warning to French Fishing Boats

by editor time to read: 12 min