Progress made in fishing dispute

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The breakthrough follows a meeting between External Relations Minister Ian Gorst and the European Commission Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius on Friday.

During the talks, which also included representatives from the UK, it was agreed that the Island would grant an additional five permanent licences to French fishermen who had supplied the required evidence and met the criteria. This latest development in the long-running saga brought the total number of licences issued to French vessels up to 130.

Seven applications made by Jersey vessels to fish in EU waters are also due to be considered.

Around 40 EU vessels, which had been given a temporary licence – after providing some historical fishing data but not the required amount – will be ordered to cease fishing in Jersey waters from the end of January.

Posting on Twitter on Saturday, Mr Sinkevicius appeared reserved over the move, saying all licence refusals would be investigated.

He said: ‘This decision is an important step in a long process. We will examine together with Flag of France administration the legal circumstances around every licence request that has not been granted.’

Meanwhile, fishermen in St Malo say they now want to begin negotiating directly with Jersey rather than going through the EU – describing the current arrangement as a ‘fiasco’.

Speaking to BFMTV, Pascal Lecler, president of the Ile-et-Villaine Fisheries Committee, said: ‘We want to ask the European Commission for a delegation to regain control and discuss directly with Jersey. As long as it is the European Commission which will have control, we will not achieve anything.’

Although the move could be seen as a breakthrough by some, critics may argue that the hard work is far from over with a ‘nature and extent’ condition attached to French post-Brexit fishing licences now needing to be negotiated and implemented.

The clause governs what species vessels can catch and in what quantities. Such controls were initially in place when permits were first issued to French boats in May but were rescinded following a request by the EU. Some local fishermen have claimed that French vessels have been operating in Jersey’s waters virtually unregulated since then.

Environment Minister John Young. Picture: ROB CURRIE. (32235821)

Environment Minister John Young previously described the implementation of the condition as ‘a hurdle to jump’.

Speaking this weekend, he said: ‘Thanks to the co-operation between Jersey, the European Commission and UK government, further data has now been received and the technical exercise can be brought to a conclusion.’

He added: ‘We can now begin the important work of progressing the nature and extent of fishing in our waters as set out in the Trade and Co-operation Agreement, including by these vessels, confirming what species fishermen are permitted to catch, the period they can do so and the measures required to conserve our fish stocks.’

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