States approve law for the Island to manage its seas

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Only foreign boats that are able to demonstrate a track record of fishing in Jersey will be able to operate in the Island’s waters under the licensing scheme brought in by Environment Minister John Young.

The move comes amid rising tension between Jersey and French fleets which sparked a large protest in St Helier Harbour earlier this year.

Deputy Young said: ‘This is, I hope, a major step forward, if not the solution, to many of those problems about how we make sure that we can keep our fisheries sustainable and ensure that it has a future, and we do not damage our marine environment in an irresponsible way.’

He said the terms of the post-Brexit Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement, which replaced the Bay of Granville Treaty, meant that Jersey had ‘got the power to manage our seas’.

Under the terms of the TECA, French vessels can only access Jersey’s waters if they have documents proving historic activity in the Island.

A fishing amnesty period to allow European boats to provide the relevant documentation ends for larger vessels of more than 12 metres at the end of April, but has been
extended for smaller boats until June.

The minister added that the ‘big difference’ between the French and Jersey fleets was the Island’s fleet contained small boats using low-impact methods, such as static pots, and ‘not a great deal of dredging effort’.

Tensions between Jersey’s fleet and their French counterparts have flared up over several months following the UK’s exit from the European Union.

And Deputy Young admitted there was ‘a lot of choppy waters ahead in terms of implementing this’.

Licences will also be based on catch data in a push for sustainability.

The change was a ‘sound legal framework’, said Deputy Young, and ‘if a boat over 12 metres is fishing without a licence, then they will be doing it contrary to the rules’.

Members approved the change by 41 votes.

A law on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing was also passed unanimously by 42 votes.

Deputy Young said IUU was ‘one of the big serious threats to the sustainable exploitation of living
aquatic resources and jeopardises fisheries policy and management and international efforts to promote better ocean governance’.

He said the law was an ‘important element’ of international agreements and had to be re-enacted to ‘fulfil our obligation’ following the UK’s exit from the EU.

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