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Saturday, May 15, 2021

'Misunderstanding' in Jersey-France fishing row led to power threat

A “misunderstanding” over post-Brexit fishing licences has led to France threatening to cut electricity to Jersey, a senior politician has said.

External Relations Minister Ian Gorst said he wanted to “heal this relationship” with French authorities.

French Maritime Minister Annick Girardin threatened “retaliatory measures” over a new licensing regime for fishing in Jersey’s waters.

About 95% of Jersey’s electricity comes from France via undersea cables.

The row emerged over a new licensing system for French fishing vessels introduced by the Government of Jersey under the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).

Jersey issued 41 licences for access to its waters on Friday when an interim agreement came to an end.

Map showing UK's exclusive economic zones

The government argued the permits must “correspond to the previous activity a vessel has carried out in Jersey waters” under the terms of the TCA and its new system was “in line with the data submitted by the French and EU authorities”.

A spokeswoman said it took French complaints over the terms of the licensing agreement “very seriously” and would respond, but argued it had acted in “good faith” setting up the regime.

“The government remains committed to the sustainable management of Jersey waters for the benefit of this and future generations,” she said.

‘A new era’

Senator Gorst said Jersey was committed to “finding a smooth transition to the new regime” and he would be speaking to the French government on Tuesday to clear up any confusion.

He explained there was “no time limit” for the French fishing industry or government to provide evidence of previous activity in Jersey waters.

“We are entering a new era and it takes time for all to adjust,” he said.

“If French fishermen or the authorities have further evidence they would like to submit, we will update the licences to reflect that evidence.”

French authorities said “new technical measures” for fishing off the Channel Islands had not been communicated to the EU, rendering them “null and void”.

Representatives from Normandy have closed their office in St Helier in protest of “inexplicable conditions” in the new scheme, which had been introduced “against all expectations”.

These include caps on the number of fishing days for different vessels, restrictions on gear and the closure of fishing areas.

The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said the self-governing Crown Dependency is “responsible for its own territorial waters”.

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