Islanders divided over diplomatic storm in Jersey
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The morning after a major diplomatic storm in Jersey, the sun is shining and all is quiet in the port of Saint-Hélier.
A far cry from the scene here Thursday, when a flotilla of French vessels – estimated at around 70 men – gathered to protest the reduction in fishing access to Jersey waters.
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Flares were fired and the departure of the local ferry was delayed by four hours during all the confusion.
The HMS was hiding nearby Severn and HMS Tamar, two naval patrol boats sent by Boris Johnson to “monitor the situation”, whose presence prompted Paris to dispatch its own ships.
By Friday, the threat caused by gunboat diplomacy had receded but the issues that had triggered it were still ongoing.
Not far from where Thursday’s events took place, 45-year-old fisherman Michael Michieli stands on the quay next to his trawler.
He says The independent that he does not “pray” to his French peers from their points of view but does not tolerate their methods. “These are just typical French bullying tactics,” he says.
The Channel Islander believes its local fleet is going through a much more difficult Brexit period than its neighbors. Mr. Michieli points out that three or four French trawlers were fishing off Jersey on Thursday, when the current line prevented him from working.
“They’ve gone fishing in our waters and are here jumping up and down, and we don’t have the right to go fishing because we can’t land anything,” he explains.
Like some others from Jersey, he typically travels to the north coast of France, just 14 miles away, to sell the majority of his transport at auction.
Since January 1, this arrangement has been compromised by additional administrative formalities and is now completely weighed down by the current dispute.
It is not, admits the seasoned fisherman, that he cannot obtain authorization from the French authorities, but that he fears that local animosity will prevent him from unloading his catch. He says he was recently warned against a trip to Granville by his harbor master for the same reason.
Another Jersey fisherman initiated a landing attempt on Thursday, but failed, Michieli said. “Jason tried yesterday and he was greeted by a crowd of bullies at the top of the dock.
“He had done all his paperwork. He was allowed to land and at the bottom of the ladder he looks up and there’s this crowd.
A few hours after our conversation, the French authorities officially closed the ports of Carteret, Diélette and Granville to Jersey fishermen.
Some members of the Jersey fishing community are calling for calm, including Chris Le Masurier, a third-generation shellfish producer. After jumping out of his car on the dock, the owner of Jersey Oyster Company said he took part in the French flotilla out of solidarity.
Although several other Jersey boats were also involved, he was singled out by Don Thompson, the president of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, who said he had come “to protect his own interests”.
Mr. Le Masurier refutes this assertion as absurd. Instead, he argues that the Jersey and French fishermen should be on the same side. “At the end of the day, French fishermen are trying to protect their historic rights. And I want to exercise my historic right to be able to trade with France and Europe, ”he says.
He remembers how his French counterparts thanked him for his support at the end of the day, and hopes that some have come back saying “there is a little goodwill on the Jersey side” “.
“But here, you are only a collaborator”, intervenes Nathalie Porritt, director of Aqua-Mar Fisheries, who joined us at the port and who is angry with the way some people in Saint-Hélier handled the situation. . “The fishermen of Jersey are trying to start a war where there is no war. It’s like a circus. It got completely out of control and it wasn’t necessary, ”she adds.
“It’s a question of government, it’s a problem with the administration, the paperwork. And he was thrown completely in the wrong directions.
As an example, the fish exporter mentions a shelling incident that occurred on Thursday. Although this has been attributed to a French boat in the media, she says the blame falls squarely on a Jersey resident, who does not work in the fishing industry. He “made it worse” and “drove dangerously,” she says.
Other than that, the day went relatively peacefully. “It was very tense. But it could have been much worse. There were a lot of angry fishermen there. We have managed to keep calm, ”says Le Masurier.
Gregory Guida, Deputy Minister of the Environment for Jersey, met with representatives of the French fleet and spoke to them in French about their concerns.
The hour-and-a-half meeting was “a good constructive discussion,” said John Le Fondre, the Chief Minister of Crown Dependencies, in his office, located a short walk from the port of St. Helier.
The leader of the territory insists that the dispute can be resolved and suggests that the problem of licenses is a temporary failure, stemming from “incomplete or inaccurate” data transmitted by certain French crews. Under the new system, fishing allocations are determined by the time fishermen have spent operating in Jersey waters over the past three years.
Echoing the British government’s plan to step up diplomatic efforts on the issue, Le Fondre said Jersey’s long-standing relationship with France is of the utmost importance. “Culturally and historically, our ties with France are close. They date back hundreds of years, ”he says.
In addition to easing tensions with France, the Chief Minister wishes to resolve the concerns raised by the Jersey fleet. “We are, as islanders – sailors if you will – sympathetic to all fishermen, whether they are from Jersey or France. It is a difficult profession to do. “
However, he said he was happy with the British Prime Minister’s naval aid, which was dismissed by former President John Bercow as “a jingo click”. “We are very grateful for the support we have received,” notes Mr. Le Fondre.
This is a sentiment shared by Mark Humber, a local resident, who describes the decision to send Navy boats as “a good idea”. However, he says he wanted the ships to do more to disband the protest. “They should have come closer to push them [the French boats] move back. ”
Kevin O’Connell, who moved to the island 28 years ago from the UK, also approves of Mr Johnson’s intervention, but unlike Mr Humber thinks the actions of the French fleet were acceptable . “It was just a sign of protest. Nothing like the Man United game the other week, ”he said, referring to last week’s pitch invasion at Old Trafford.
With the port demonstration having been interrupted for a long time, Mr. Michieli prays that the tensions continue to be defused, so that he can get back to work. “I want to go and do my job but I can’t,” he says.
Even if that happens soon, he would prefer the proceedings not to be so roundabout. “He goes around the houses – back and forth. We live just 14 miles away [from France]. But it goes to Brussels, Paris, London, then Jersey.