Jersey fishing head warns French authorities seeking to TRIPLE boats operating in waters

Jersey: Don Thompson says France want to ‘triple’ boats

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Don Thompson told Express.co.uk he fears French fishing authorities will send hundreds of fishing licence applications that will “definitely” not be approved as the fishing boss estimates there is only enough data and evidence for 60 French licences to be processed. Jersey and French governments have clashed following new Brexit agreements which have limited how many French boats operate in Jersey territorial waters with the Jersey government only awarding licences to French boats that can prove they have historically operated in the area. But while French authorities have struggled to come up with the data, Mr Thompson believes they will oversaturate licence applications with weak cases regardless – potentially leading to further protests later in the year.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mr Thompson explained the current situation in Jersey following a licence amnesty until September. 

As part of the post-Brexit agreement, French boats would be denied access to Jersey waters unless they can prove they have historically operated there over the past few years. 

The agreement, which was due to be implemented in May, was met with a large protest from French boats who demonstrated around St Helier. 

French fishers say they were not consulted on the move and have also criticised French authorities for not acting quick enough.

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An extension was granted until June with another last-minute extension then introduced until September which will give French authorities the time to gather the necessary information to present their fishing licence applications. 

French boats will also be able to operate in the waters until the end of September.

However, Mr Thompson said the system used by French authorities to prove where boats have operated is extremely inaccurate and unreliable. 

He adds French authorities were able to issue their own licences to operate in Jersey waters as part of the now-defunct Granville Bay Agreement and claims around 340 were awarded.

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Mr Thompson said he has seen data that shows approximately 72 boats visited Jersey waters annually and fears France will seek to present several hundred licences which can not be backed up by evidence.

He explained these boats are likely to be awarded licences but he is expecting many more will come through.

The fishing president also said both the crown dependencies and the UK have rejected the French system, furthering tensions.

He told Express.co.uk: “There has been a little bit more data forthcoming and there have been a few boats getting across the line with having enough data to qualify [for fishing licences].

“But it seems French fishing organisations and French administration certainly seem to be aiming for much higher numbers than the traditional numbers that operated historically in our waters. 

“This is where the amnesty creates a problem, that we are already up to the number of boats that historically worked in our waters, we’ve almost reached that number now.

“Around 60 or 70 boats depended on our waters for their livelihoods.

“We’re almost up to that number now and it looks as if French authorities are seeking to double or triple that number.

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“The reality is that these boats that want to have permits will not have the data because they didn’t fish or very rarely did.”

Mr Thompson explained he has used Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) to track Jersey boats and compared it to systems used in France. 

He branded the French system “an academic exercise” that estimates where boats have operated based on their ports of origin and landing.

He continued: “I think what happens with the amnesty is that it is just pushing the can down the road and that we’re going to end up in the same situation. 

“Jersey cannot issue licences on the back of a scribble on a packet of cigarettes, it’s got to be proper data.”

During the Jersey protests in May, Mr Thompson told ITV that he believed French President Emmanuel Macron manufactured the protest by slowing down the release of information and records for licences to be approved. 

He accused the French government of doing so because they are gearing up for an election next year and sought to politically capitalise on the disagreements.

A spokesperson from the Government of Jersey told Express.co.uk: “A total of 222 applications have been received by the Government of Jersey since 1 January 2021, 47 licences have been issued to date.

“Jersey has requested that the EU submits any further data relating to existing applications by the end of July.

“It is not possible to discuss how many vessels will qualify for a licence until the additional data has been submitted via the formal EU-UK channels, and then reviewed by the Marine Resources team.”

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