Jersey fishermen call for a tougher stance against France as UK summons French Ambassador

Fishing boats in the Channel Islands.
The ongoing fishing row continues between the Channel Islands and France. Credit: ITV Channel TV

The head of Jersey Fishermen's Association says the island's government should take a firmer stance against France in the row over fishing rights, and follow the lead of UK Ministers.

Don Thompson made the comments after George Eustice, the UK's Environment Minister, suggested there could be 'proportionate retaliation' against France, following threats that British boats could be blocked from some of its ports.

While efforts were being made to manage the situation diplomatically, Mr Eustice added that 'two can play at that game' where retaliation is concerned.

Catherine Colonna, France's top diplomat in London, was summoned to the Foreign Office over the dispute.

It comes after Jersey's Government granted more licences to French fisherman in attempt to head off more protests over rights to fish in the island's waters.

The government have announced that it will issue 162 licences from Friday 29 October.

Of 162 licences:

  • 113 of have been made permanent,

  • 49 have been classed as 'orange' meaning they have until 31 January 2022 to provide more data to prove they have fished in Channel Islands waters

  • 55 vessels have been categorised as 'red' and will not have a licence beyond Friday - but the government says the 'door remains open' if fisherman can provide the relevant data.

A joint statement from Deputy John Young and Senator Ian Gorst said: “This is a complex, evidence-based process, and we will continue to approach it with good faith. We have made ourselves available for further clarification and discussion when needed.

"Jersey has drawn upon the material provided by the EU, as well as the Government of Jersey’s own records, supplemented by commercially available information, to licence every vessel for which evidence of a qualifying track record can be found.

"We will continue to work closely with French authorities, the UK and the EU Commission – in accordance with the TCA – to ensure that vessels which are entitled to a permanent licence.”

French politicians have threatened to ban British seafood imports from landing in its harbours and a potentially cut the energy supplies to the Channel Islands in retaliation for not granting more licences.

On Thursday 28 October, French authorities detained a British trawler and gave a verbal warning to another near La Havre.

Jersey's External Relation Minister Senator Ian Gorst said the actions of the French were "disappointing" and that the retaliatory measures are "disproportionate".

Government officials have met with delegates from the UK, European Commission and France to discuss the issues.

It comes days before the deadline where French fisherman will require licences to fish in UK and Bay of Granville waters.

Recently, local fisherman warned that granting more licences could be a 'death warrant' for the industry.

ITV Channel spoke to Jersey's Home Affairs Minister Deputy Guida before the threats were made and he predicted that this could have happened.