By Clàudia Sacrest
Saint Helier, Jersey, Dec 29 (EFE).- It’s almost 5pm and, under the glow of street lights at Victoria Pier in the capital of Jersey, Stephen Viney moors his boat to unload his catch. Until a year ago, he would have sold it on the French coast, but since Brexit he has had no choice but to offload it in local restaurants and markets on the island.
“We’re just really surviving at the moment,” 54-year-old fisherman tells Efe in an interview aboard his boat, one of the approximately 50 vessels on the Channel Island dedicated mainly to scallops, crabs and lobsters.
Since he was 16 years old, Viney would set sail almost “five or six days a week” at 5am. But now, faced with the mountains of paperwork required for exports to France, he has reduced his outings to just one trip per week.
A British Crown Dependency, Jersey is located closer to mainland France than to Great Britain and has been acutely affected by Brexit, since its relationship with the European Union was established via the UK.
The 120 km2 island is a self-governing Crown Dependency that, despite not belonging to the United Kingdom, has been badly affected by Brexit, since its relationship with the European Union was established via the UK.
Until Brexit, the self-governing territory enjoyed the same free trade advantages as if it were part of the EU, but that all changed when the UK left the bloc, leaving the island at the mercy of the new post-Brexit agreement, which considers Jersey goods to be part of the UK and therefore exports to the EU.
Viney is suspicious of the trickle of permits being granted to French vessels to fish in Jersey waters with a view to softening the tensions between Welsh fishermen and Emmanuel Macron’s government, which threatened to cut off the island’s power supply after dozens of French fishing applications were rejected.
“We have to pay for our licenses,” says Viney, lamenting the “discriminatory” and “unfair” treatment by his own authorities.
A license for a boat like his costs around 90,000 pounds (106,000 euros) while another fisherman, Wyne Lowe, claims that for his boat it is over 100,000 pounds (117,800 euros).
“And the French are being given free permits,” says Lowe, who believes they are being given “too many.” About to retire, he has also stopped selling seafood in Normandy because of the increased paperwork and cost: “I don’t even bother anymore,” he says.
The difference in prices for fishing in the same waters has caused unease among Jersey’s fishermen, who came out to demonstrate in mid-December in the streets of the capital Saint Helier.
“Everything is political rhetoric,” says Don Thompson, the president of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, who interprets the aggressive position of the Elysée Palace on the horizon of the French presidential elections in 2022.
They are baffled by the title of the “Trade and Cooperation Agreement” when they only see barriers, such as the EU’s classification of their catch as category B, while fish caught by French fishermen in the same waters is in class A.
“There’s no logic, there’s no sense to that,” the fisherman concludes. EFE