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Tensions around access to revived fishing waters, Paris ready to fight back

In two days, the provisional licenses allowing French fishermen to carry out their activity in Anglo-Norman waters will expire. France has made numerous requests to the United Kingdom for final authorizations this time: 169 in Jersey, 168 in Guernsey and 87 in the 6 to 12 mile zone off the British coast. For the moment Paris is unanswered.

“All our requests are justified”, we indicated Monday to the French Ministry of the Sea which warns that its “response will be proportional to the British offer”. French fishermen plead for immediate retaliatory measures: prohibiting English boats from disembarking, reducing economic or academic cooperation with the Channel Islands. Paris says it is “studying” the subject, with Brussels as arbiter.

“In this game, it’s going to end badly”

Olivier Le Nezet, president of the regional fisheries committee of Brittany says he is ready, just like his colleague from Normandy, to flex his muscles, “since it is only that that the English understand”. “In this game, it will end badly”, he fears, tired at the idea “of going to the siege of Jersey every four-five months”.

At the beginning of May, dozens of Norman and Breton fishing boats had gathered in the port of Saint-Hélier in Jersey to defend their right to continue fishing in these waters, causing London to send two patrol boats for a few hours.

Three areas of tension

In the fish-rich area of ​​6 to 12 miles from the British coast, which stretches from the south of the North Sea to Wales, the Europe agreement provides for guaranteed access to vessels which were already going there during the reference period 2012-2016. However, they have to apply for new licenses in London. French fishermen have obtained 88 final authorizations, but are still awaiting a response for 87 vessels. The latter, meanwhile, have no authorization, even temporary, to fish in this area.

The area of ​​the Channel Islands, Jersey and Guernsey, is the subject of the most bitter discussions. Each boat must provide proof of at least eleven days of fishing between February 1, 2017 and January 30, 2020. In Guernsey, only provisional licenses have been granted to 168 vessels and 64 applications are pending, of which 46 are for vessels of 12 meters and more.

In Jersey, France obtained 47 final authorizations and 169 provisional licenses. Paris is asking for definitive authorizations for these 169 vessels, all of less than 12 meters. The island’s authorities have set a deadline for negotiations, now set for September 30. They are ready to extend this deadline again to January 31 for those who still have supporting documents to provide. An “unacceptable” hypothesis for French fishermen, who claim to have “given everything” for small boats not equipped with a geolocation system: fishing log, maps of trips transmitted during trips, sales figures etc …

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