Jersey fisherman says the ‘situation here is really difficult’
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Don Thompson spoke to Express.co.uk about how morale is among Jersey fishers after the UK recently rejected a large portion of French boats from operating around Jersey. While appearing to be relatively good news, Mr Thompson argued the situation was much worse than people think and revealed the French fleet operating around Jersey is much larger than the domestic fleet despite the rejections. The fishing boss, who works with local fishermen, said some were “sick to my stomach” as the ongoing fishing licence row post-Brexit threatens the future of their industry with many considering leaving the sector entirely.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mr Thompson was asked how his members were feeling about the recent licence rejections and whether it was taken well.
But Mr Thompson was more downtrodden than expected, explaining: “I had to inform the guys… we had a meeting with Government but no figures [were given].
“They just informed us that they were about to conclude some sort of a deal that brings the amnesty to an end and actually allows a fairly large amount of [French] boats to fish without proper licences…
“I had to pass that on to Jersey fishermen and I was getting our guys saying I just feel sick in my stomach because I dedicated my life, my family, everything has been around fishing.
“And I just can’t seem to see a future with such a big fleet of French boats in our waters.”
Mr Thompson added many had been “battered” over the last nine months and had little assistance through the Covid crisis.
Many fishers had to dip into reserves until things got better but the ongoing row with France has made many consider leaving the job entirely.
From January 1, French boats have had to prove they historically operated in UK waters to be allowed licences to fish there as part of the post-Brexit agreement.
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But administration issues have arisen from the deal as many French boats do not have the required documentation to prove they have operated in the waters, nor do French authorities.
As a result, a large portion of French boats has been denied access to UK waters to fish with only 12 of 47 boats being granted licences last month.
Jersey also rejected 75 out of 170 applications, furthering tensions.
In May, French fishers blockaded the waters around St Helier after new rules preventing them from fishing in the waters unless they historically operated there came into place.
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French fishers claim they were not consulted on the change and attacked both Jersey and French Governments for not resolving the administrative tasks quickly enough.
Mr Thompson explained while many French boats have been rejected, their applications would never be approved under any circumstances because they lacked vital data.
He believed the bogus applications were sent because it makes the UK look bad when they reject them and to see if on the off-chance any might slip through the net.
The fishing leader believes the French fleet is around four times larger in gross tonnes than the Jersey fleet who had already been struggling with fish stocks among themselves.
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