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Sea Fisheries Regulations Under Scrutiny

Jan 27, 2023

This week, the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel (the Panel) held two Public Hearings concerning the Draft Sea Fisheries (TCA – Licensing of Fishing Boats) (Amendment of Law and Regulations – No. 2) (Jersey) Regulations 202- (the Regulations).

The Principles of the Regulations were passed by the States Assembly in the last States Meeting, before the call-in mechanism for further scrutiny by the Panel was activated. If the Regulations are approved by the States Assembly in the next States Meeting commencing 7thFebruary 2023, they will amend the Sea Fisheries (Jersey) Law 1994 and the Sea Fisheries (Licensing of Fishing Boats) (Jersey) Regulations 2003, to give the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Jonathan Renouf, wider discretion to issue sea fishing licences to substitute vessels, more commonly referred to as the ‘replacement vessels scheme’. 

Over the course of the two Public Hearings, the Panel spoke with Don Thompson, President of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association (JFA), and questioned the Minister for the Environment and government officials.

Mr Thompson, speaking on behalf of the JFA, said that despite having an overall positive communication with the Marine Resources team within the Infrastructure, Housing and Environment Department, he expressed disappointment that the Minister for the Environment has not adequately involved the JFA in the negotiation of the replacement vessel scheme. He expressed concern that the proposed Regulations, as they currently stand, will have a negative impact on Jersey’s fishing industry and marine environment, which have been hit hard by ‘a series of issues’ including Covid-19, Brexit, the war in Ukraine and rising inflation. Mr Thompson explained that these factors have ‘trebled the cost of sending fishing vessels to sea’.

The Panel heard the President’s main concerns around the replacement vessels scheme, which included the following:

• The changes do not contain an adequate supporting framework to safeguard against French fishing boats landing larger catches from Jersey waters. Mr Thompson argued that ‘using technology (the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) currently in place) is ‘not a realistic safeguard’ on catch limits. He described relying upon VMS to implement the proposed changes as ‘almost border[ing] on naivety’ because daily catch can’t be accurately measured.

• The replacement vessel scheme will encourage boats to increase in size (referred to as ‘tonnage’) because the proposed legislation allows a 10 percent increase in horsepower and a 20 percent increase in tonnage when replacing a boat. Mr Thompson argues this is unhealthy for both Jersey fishers and the marine environment, explaining: ‘when you have a licensing regime that does not prevent tonnage moving about, you will get bigger ships’ because licenses can be combined and transferred from one boat to another. He added, ‘there is a lot less need to manage fish stocks’ when boats are bigger and have multiple licenses to fish elsewhere in European waters, encouraging more intense fishing for shorter periods of time. 

• Mr Thompson has ‘real concerns’ about the ability of the Marine Resources Department to monitor, with VMS, the 136 French boats who have Jersey fishing permits

Despite Mr Thompson’s concerns, he concluded on a hopeful note: ‘we’d like to see [the proposition] go through. There’s a simple solution here: build a strong framework and get it in with the legislation.’ 

In the following Public Hearing, the Minister for the Environment responded to some of the concerns raised by the JFA and answered further questions from the Panel. 

The Panel questioned the Minister for the Environment over concerns that the proposed replacement vessel scheme might encourage a trend over time towards fewer, larger French boats if tonnage is transferred from smaller boats to larger ones. The Minister assured the Panel that from 1st February 2023, when fishermen from Normandy and Brittany gain permits to operate in Jersey waters, there will be strict conditions attached to those permits. He highlighted that under the proposed draft legislation there is a set cap of 10 percent increase in horsepower and 20 percent increase in tonnage from the original vessel to the replacement vessel, however many times a vessel is replaced, restricting an increase in size of vessels over time.

In answer to the JFA’s concerns on catch limit enforcement measures for French vessels, the Minister confirmed to the Panel that all French fishing vessels over 12 metres must have the VMS technology implemented before they start fishing in Jersey waters. Dr Paul Chambers, Head of Marine Resources, is confident that the current system of ‘intelligence-based monitoring’ can be used to monitor catch: ‘Using VMS data you can determine where a boat is fishing. Depending on the pattern it produces you can tell what it is fishing and how long itis fishing’. Dr Chambers added that unfortunately Jersey Authorities have no legal remit to check quotas are being met on land when French fishermen return to French soil. He is hopeful, however, that more exchange of data with the French will take place in the future to improve monitoring: ‘we are hoping to have set up automatic access to an e-log system that the French vessels have to fill in as they go along, including for particular zones in Jersey and Guernsey’. Catch landing data from France however, ‘is only available on request’.

When questioned on the Department’s resource capacity to adequately monitor vessels through VMS, Dr Chambers assured the Panel he is ‘quite confident at the moment that we have got a good team, and that we’re able to handle things that are being thrown at us’.

Deputy Steve Luce, Chair of the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel, said “We thank the JFA and the Minister for their input. We encourage greater communication between the Minister and the JFA to provide more opportunity for concerns to be raised and clarifications given moving forward. The Panel intends to present a comments paper to the 

States Assembly with its findings ahead of the States’ sitting commencing on 7th February 2023.’

A full recording of the public hearing can be watched here

States Assembly Press Notice

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