Fishermen warn dispute with French ‘could all kick off again’

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Michael Michieli, skipper of L’Ecume II, made the comments as Jersey boats this week began to land shellfish in Carteret for the first time since the start of the month.

Other vessels have been managing to land in St Malo and the price of shellfish in France is soaring as the country reopens its restaurants for outdoor dining.

But those working in the industry are worried that the dispute could flare up when the latest amnesty period – granted to allow fishermen to submit historical fishing data to receive a permit to fish in Island waters – ends on 1 July and restrictions on how many days they can
operate in Jersey waters come back into force.

Mr Michieli said it would only take ‘one fisherman with a grudge’ to reignite the situation.

He added: ‘They cannot really refuse us because, at the moment, they have been given another two months to get their paperwork in order, so it should be business as usual and we should not get any threats.

‘The French government can say what they want but if the fishermen are not happy with the deal they have been given they will still kick off.

‘If they let us land and the prices are reasonable it is probably a good opportunity [for fishermen] to get out there while you can. They are just coming out of Covid and French restaurants opened their terraces on 18 May – it is no surprise that lobster has gone up [in value].’

Mark Green, the skipper of Le Bulotier, managed to land his catch in Carteret on Thursday. He said the crisis was far from over.

‘It could all kick off again. We are just going from day to day at the moment – there is no planning,’ he explained.

‘Anything could happen. They all stick together, so if one boat has any problems the others are usually happy to back them up.’

He added: ‘They are crying out for our stuff at the moment. At the criée in Granville lobster has been going for 30 euro a kilo all week – that is much higher than it normally is. Because all of our stuff has not been going into France there has not been much supply, which has pushed the price up. It will probably change when all Jersey boats start going out.’

Meanwhile, Nathalie Porritt, director of Aqua-Mar Fisheries, said sales in Europe were beginning to pick up and that her company was keen to buy local fishermen’s crab and lobster – with 17 tonnes being exported in the past couple of weeks.

‘With Europe slowly unlocking, things are definitely starting to pick up and get better now. France has opened its outside areas at restaurants and Chris Le Masurier [of the Jersey Oyster Company] has told me that he has been getting a crazy number of orders,’ she said.

‘We have also got Condor’s Clipper and Rapide crossings restarting on Mondays and Fridays – that is how we normally export. The future definitely looks a bit brighter.’

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