The Future of Our Inshore Fisheries Conference will be held in London on 8th/9th October. Your…
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 (see below) they have signed, or the impact that their selfishness has on other UK fishermen.
Allowing a single Guernsey vessel to catch skates and rays unrestricted, threatens a premature closure of the UK’s non-sector Skates and rays, threatening fishermen’s livelihoods; and undermines any notion of rational conservation and management of shared stocks.
Tearing up the Fisheries Agreement by the Defra 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.
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 Chanel 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, amongst others. That is why shared management in necessary and why when one party chooses to behave like a spoilt child, boundaries must be applied firmly.
Our concern is also what happens in the meantime. An early closure of the important skates and rays fishery would be highly disruptive and damaging.
The MMO has assured us that it is doing everything possible in terms of swaps and transfers to keep the fishery open but it is like trying to fill a sink with the plug out - unless the Guernsey issue can be resolved.
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.
FISHERIES MANAGEMENT AGREEMENT
This Agreement is made between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (“Defra”), Marine Scotland, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Wales on the one hand, and the States of Guernsey Commerce and Employment Department, the Chief Pleas of Sark Sea Fisheries Committee and the States of Alderney General Services Committee on the other.
It sets out the main aspects of the arrangements for the management of fisheries between the United Kingdom and Bailiwick of Guernsey in British fishery limits adjacent to the Bailiwick of Guernsey; namely:
- The implementation of Common Fishery Policy rules and regulations in Bailiwick waters.
- The system through which the Bailiwicks can introduce fishery management measures in Bailiwick waters.
- Fair access for Bailiwick and UK vessels to each Administration’s respective waters.
- How the relationship between the Bailiwicks and UK fisheries will be managed.
Fishery Limits: British fishery limits adjacent to the Bailiwick of Guernsey shall be construed as a reference to that part of those limits not exceeding 12 international nautical miles of 1,852 metres from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea adjacent to the Bailiwick of Guernsey is measured, but not extending beyond a line every point of which is equidistant from the nearest points of such baselines and the corresponding baselines of the Bailiwick of Jersey and France, and shall be referred to in this Agreement as “the 3-12 mile area”;
Legislation: fisheries matters in the 3-12 mile area must take account of relevant Bailiwick of Guernsey, United Kingdom, European Union and international obligations, and whereas fisheries (as defined below) in the 12 mile area should be managed in a manner consistent with UK and EU legislation and procedures;
Access Rights: the 3-12 mile area is not an exclusive fisheries zone and the rights of fishermen from the UK, the Isle of Man and the Bailiwick of Jersey generally and the particular rights of fishermen from France under the various conventions should be respected, and technical conservation measures should not discriminate between fishermen by reason of nationality;
Governance: the States of Guernsey Commerce and Employment Department (referred to in this agreement as “the Department”) will be responsible for the administration and enforcement of a fishing vessel licensing scheme and fisheries management/enforcement for British fishing vessels wishing to fish in the 3-12-mile area.
Bailiwick Fisheries Management Commission: the Department, the Chief Pleas of Sark Sea Fisheries Committee and the States of Alderney General Services Committee will form a body known as the Bailiwick Fisheries Management Commission (BFMC) (referred to in this Agreement as “the Commission”). The Commission will (subject to the functions conferred on the Department by the preceding paragraph) manage the living marine resources within the 3-12 mile area under a Bailiwick Fisheries Management Agreement (BFMA).
The Commission will be the sole conduit for communications between the Bailiwick and Defra when the Bailiwicks wish the UK Government to consider fisheries legislation they wish to introduce (though the Islands can contact Defra on an individual basis to discuss specific issues).
Definition: this Agreement sets out the main aspects of the arrangements for fisheries between the UK and Bailiwick of Guernsey in respect of shellfish (which expression in this Agreement shall include crustaceans and molluscs of any kind other than nephrops) and sea fish (which expression in this Agreement shall include nephrops and any other TAC stock) and provides for a regular consultation process to deal with routine business and particular issues as they arise; and in this Agreement “fisheries” means shellfish and sea fish.
1. Except as may otherwise be agreed, and always subject to paragraphs 19-22 below, members of the Commission agree:
a. to keep the rules and laws relating to the regulation of fishing and the management and conservation of seafish and shellfish in the 3-12 mile area consistent with the requirements of enforceable European Union law relating to sea fishing and UK policy in relation to such matters, allowing for any additional conservation measures which may be imposed by local legislation on British registered fishing vessels or by licence condition on British registered fishing vessels in relation to such stocks as the Commission deems necessary for the purpose of managing the inshore fishery at a sustainable level;
b. to accept that there will be concurrent UK and Bailiwick of Guernsey jurisdiction in relation to fisheries in the 3-12-mile area;
c. and for the purposes of this Agreement the expression “British registered fishing vessels” means fishing vessels registered in the Bailiwick of Guernsey and the UK.
2. Proposals for future fisheries management and technical controls in that part of the 12 mile area beyond 3 international nautical miles from the baselines referred to in the first recital above (referred to in this Agreement as the “extended territorial sea”) will be presented, by the Commission prior to any wider consultation, to Defra for views and will normally be of Bailiwick wide application.
3. However, should Guernsey, Alderney or Sark require specific legislation to deal with fisheries management or socio economic factors in their own part of the extended territorial sea, the proposal will be presented to Defra by the Commission with an explanation as to why it is required and why it will not be of Bailiwick wide application.
4. The Bailiwicks will take account of Defra’s views and provide the Department with any revisions prior to wider consultation.
Memorandum of Understanding
5. Guernsey, Alderney or Sark will agree a Memorandum of Understanding with the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) on operational aspects of fishery management. This will include agreeing how the Islands will manage the licensing of vessels, quota management, the supply of statistical data and data transfer between the Islands and the MMO and enforcement.
6. The MoU shall accompany the FMA and agreement on the FMA is subject to the MoU being in place.
7. The MMO and the Commission shall consult on practical arrangements with regard to the enforcement of fisheries laws within the 3-12-mile area. This will be set out in the MoU.
8. The Islands, MMO and Defra will meet annually to review the MoU (the latest copy of the MoU is attached at Annex 1 of this agreement). The MoU will cover the following aspects of the Islands fisheries management:
Fishing vessel licensing
9. Within the 3-12 mile area the Commission shall operate a restrictive licensing scheme for British registered fishing vessels parallel with that operated in the UK.
10. Owners of vessels registered in Guernsey and holding a valid licence to fish within the 12 mile area (a “Guernsey Waters Licence”) may apply for and will normally be granted by Defra an equivalent licence to fish in UK waters outside the 12 mile area (a “UK Waters Licence”). The Department agrees to operate reciprocal arrangements for UK registered and licensed vessels wishing to fish within the 3-12 mile area. When determining licence applications to fish in the 3-12 mile area the Department may have regard to whether vessels have an established record of fishing in those waters.
11. The issue and transfer (including aggregation) of licences that are transferable between fishing vessels registered in the Bailiwick of Guernsey and those registered in the UK shall be subject to the same rules as apply to equivalent English licences, as set out in the MoU.
However, in this respect Defra acknowledges that the legal powers necessary to apply rules equivalent to the UK rules do not exist in the Bailiwick.
12. Except insofar as is allowed by paragraph 1(a), the Department shall ensure at all times that fishing vessel licences issued by it contain conditions and limitations equivalent to those contained in comparable English licences.
Fisheries quota management
13. The Commission and the MMO will hold annual meetings to discuss yearly quota for key species in the Islands fisheries.
14. TAC stocks caught by any registered fishing vessels within or without the 12mile area shall count against the quotas allocated to the UK under the Common Fisheries Policy.
15. Defra and the MMO will actively involve the Commission in any policy or operational discussions on the management of fisheries in ICES Division VIIe.
Supply of statistical data
16. The Commission shall supply to the MMO all statistical data necessary to enable the UK Government to carry out its quota management and vessel licensing responsibilities and to fulfil its EU obligations.
17. The MMO and the Commission will work to ensure data transfer work effectively between both organisations.
Consultation on Fisheries Measures
18. The Commission shall:
Consult, and take account of the views of Defra and the Devolved Administrations, prior to consulting more widely with industry and other interested parties on new fishery measures.
Ensure that new regulations are justifiable, evidence based and non discriminatory.
Produce Impact Assessments for new measures;
Follow UK Government best practice guidance when consulting;
Ensure that measures are consistent with concordats and other agreements we have with the DAs, and ensure that equal access continues to apply for UK and Island vessels in each other’s waters.
19. Defra will advise the Commission about any measures, additional to quota management, which in their view should apply in the 3-12 mile area.
20. On fisheries measures being proposed by the EU, which would affect fishing in ICES Division VIIe, Defra will advise the Commission of these whenever possible and will take any points the Commission makes into consideration when preparing the UK position.
21. After such consultation provided for above, each party may issue consultation documents, if appropriate, to their industries and will liaise with the other on the handling of the outcome of such consultations and the development of any measures arising.
22. The parties shall meet at least once each year (as set out in paragraph 7) and more frequently if appropriate.
23. This agreement will take effect on the date when the relevant legislation has been enacted.