Islands strive to agree a fishing access scheme GUERNSEY and Jersey authorities are close to signing a mutually beneficial fishing agreement.
Every effort is being made to find a workable solution that allows a pool of licensed vessels legally to fish each other’s waters.
But taking the Guernsey licensing scheme dispute to the UK Privy Council would be counter-productive and raise serious constitutional implications that would far outweigh the costs, said Jersey Economic Development Committee president Gerald Voisin.
The long-running legal battle took a further twist two days ago when the Court of Appeal decided to overturn a previous appeal by Jersey and UK fishermen. It puts an immediate block on commercial fishing within Guernsey’s three-to-12-mile limit.
‘We have been working with the Commerce and Employment Department to find a solution and I think we have more or less agreed the principles of an access scheme,’ said Deputy Voisin.
‘It’s a case of drawing up a document that we can both sign and if we have agreed the principles, we should be able to do this quite quickly. Certainly by the end of summer is realistic.’
He understood that those Jersey fishermen who could not now fish in Guernsey waters would be displeased at any delay, but assured them everything was being done at a political level to find an amicable solution.
The access agreement on which the islands’ authorities have been working would allow a pool of vessels to fish each other’s waters – about 28 from both islands – under a vanguard agreement.
‘Jersey and Guernsey should build on the constructive dialogue we have had in the last few months and we should move on and sign some form of agreement.’
He urged both governments to be flexible in the short-term to allow fishermen to pursue their livelihoods.
Jersey Fishermen’s Association chairman Mike Taylor said: ‘I do hope we can still reach an agreement along the lines of the vanguard agreement. It would be a last resort to go to Privy Council but I very much hope we could sort this out before the six-week appeal window closes.’
Jersey fishermen are livid at this week’s court ruling and Mr Taylor believed that the result would impact on them immediately.
‘We are very disappointed but take some crumbs of comfort from the judgement, which seemed to say that this was somehow a temporary measure and the islands must get together to resolve the issue,’ said Deputy Taylor.
‘It dovetails in quite well with the vanguard accord. It seems ridiculous to carry on like this fighting each other in court. It’s not as if our boats are not licensed and we have a very long history of fishing in Guernsey waters.’
The vanguard accord sets out the main points of agreement on what should be done to settle the outstanding disputes on access and licensing.
This ‘agreement to agree’ was brokered by politicians and States officials from Jersey and Guernsey, called the vanguard group.
A source suggests it has agreed the reciprocal arrangement for the 28 fishermen. This would still hold good, although there had been some ‘sticking points’ about licensing technicalities, said Deputy Voisin.
Commerce and Employment minister Stuart Falla was unavailable for comment.
by Nick Mollet