French fishing talks ‘built on trust’

BOAT-BY-BOAT negotiations are taking place between Guernsey and France to establish a post-Brexit fishing regime that aims to be fair and sustainable – and avoids the protests experienced off Jersey.

Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 30115176)
Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 30115176)

The Bailiwick’s new fishing licences are due to be issued on 1 December and will take effect from 1 February next year.

In the run-up to France’s presidential elections, Emmanuel Macron has given Britain and Jersey a two-week deadline to give French fishermen greater access to British waters or risk retaliatory measures.

Policy & Resources external relations lead Jonathan Le Tocq said the Jersey situation was being monitored closely, but highlighted that Guernsey had taken a different approach.

‘We started off by saying that we weren’t going to rush into implementing a new regime until it was fully understood by the other side, and what the basis of it was, and what the definitions would be,’ he said.

‘Sustainability is the goal for both islands, we don’t want huge great trawlers coming through our waters and taking all the fish away in an un-environmentally friendly manner, and that was made clear.

‘The other thing was that we want to continue the long tradition of being able to access French markets.

‘So from our point of view, the rolling over of the interim regime has enabled us to buy some time. We’re not negotiating under pressure, or under threats, which is unfortunately the position that Jersey finds itself in.’

Hanging over Jersey are the threats of cutting of electricity supplies and preventing Jersey fishermen landing their catches at French ports.

Deputy Le Tocq believed the negotiations were being conducted in a context of trust.

‘We’re doing our utmost, to the point where we have even talked to the fishing committee to show them the details that we have received in terms of applications and the evidence that they have to give for each vessel, and I’ve said this to the French politicians as well.

'We can’t negotiate directly with the French. It’s come via the UK from Brussels from Paris from Normandy, and we’ve seen that there’s been some information that’s been missing and some information that those fishermen have said wasn’t what they gave, so that’s really helped us to build trust with them, and I think that trust has a value to it as a currency and I don’t want to lose that.

‘It’s very difficult to do negotiations when you’re not in the room and you’re not legally the ones responsible, but that is the way it is. I can complain about it but I can’t do anything about it, except to do the things that we’ve been doing, which is I think the best way forward because it puts trust with those fishermen that have been and are going to continue to share our waters.’

The number of licences that will be issued by the Guernsey authorities has not been finalised yet because accurate details for individual vessels are still being established.

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