French fisherman temporarily barred from Guernsey waters

An unexpected immediate consequence of the UK leaving the EU on January 31st has been that French fishermen have found themselves temporarily banned from entering the waters of Guernsey. The post-Brexit administrative changes were expected to be resolved within a few days, the French Agriculture Ministry said at the weekend.

The agreement on water access to Guernsey coasts was based on a European fisheries treaty that expired automatically on January 31st when  the UK’s exit from the EU was enacted, reports Reuters.

Although the “implementation period” relationship through to December 31st 2020 is theoretically a business-as-usual transition, which should mean that French fishermen retain access to Guernsey waters, the authorities in Guernsey, a British crown dependency, decided to install a new system where boats would need to get individual authorizations to enter the waters 6 to 12 miles off its coasts.

“The procedure for requesting these authorizations must be put in place next week. During this period, access by French vessels to Guernsey waters is temporarily suspended,” the Agricultural Ministry said in a statement.

The governments of Guernsey, Alderney and Sark said on Friday that they had put in place a package of measures to ensure continuity of access for the remainder of 2020 for French vessels that previously fished in their waters.

The French ministry said that fishing in Guernsey waters accounted for only a small part of fisheries activities in the area, with about 140 boats fishing in Guernsey in 2018, and only about 30 active in late January and early February.