‘Rogue’ Guernsey under fire in quota row
THE authorities on the Channel island of Guernsey have been accused of selfishness for failing to rein back their fishermen from catching certain species.
The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO) has hit out at the island’s government, saying allowing a single Guernsey vessel to catch skates and rays unrestricted threatens a premature closure of the UK’s non-sector skates and rays, threatens fishermen’s livelihoods and undermines any notion of rational conservation and management of shared stocks.
‘There is no sign that Guernsey authorities are minded to accept that they have a responsibility to constrain the catches of Guernsey vessels, notwithstanding the fisheries agreement they have signed, or the impact that their selfishness has on other UK fishermen,’ said an NFFO spokesman.
The tearing up of the Fisheries Agreement by the fisheries minister was the only reasonable response left, after Guernsey refused to either implement what they had already agreed to, or discuss quota limits meaningfully.
However, it emerged at the weekend that the minister, George Eustice, has withdrawn his threat to scrap the agreement pending talks between the two governments.
The NFFO said: ‘If the matter can’t be resolved through discussion, then it will have to be resolved in the law courts.
‘Whatever the arcane constitutional arrangements involved, it would be a complete nonsense to allow Guernsey to undermine every conservation initiative for shared stocks in the Eastern Channel because of what did or didn’t happen in the 11th century.
‘Although skates and rays are the immediate focus, these issues could apply to any quota stock.
‘This is not crab or lobster, whose limited pattern of movement make them amenable to localised management.
‘This is part of a stock that is shared by Jersey, UK and French vessels, among others. That is why shared management is necessary and why when one party chooses to behave like a spoilt child, boundaries must be applied firmly.’
The NFFO says its main concern now is what happens in the meantime. An early closure of the important skates and rays fishery would be highly disruptive and damaging.
‘It is quite plain that the terms of the Fisheries Management Agreement envisage that quota rules apply to Guernsey vessels, even if the detailed arrangements are left for further discussion. The fact that catches by Guernsey vessels count against the UK’s quota seals the issue.
‘This running sore must be brought to a conclusion as soon as possible to protect fishermen’s livelihoods. on grounds of rationality and fairness, and ultimately to protect stocks from a rogue statelet.
‘If this conflict goes to the courts it is likely to carry broader ramifications that the Guernsey authorities may not like. Much better that this unfortunate spasm is brought to a close, quickly, over the negotiating table.’