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Navy

French Fishing Vessels Approaching Jersey Was 'Like An Invasion', Fisherman Says

About 60 French boats were estimated to have gathered in protest at the port of St Helier on Thursday morning.

NEWS COVER

The sight of dozens of French fishing vessels approaching a harbour in Jersey has been described by a local fisherman as looking "like an invasion".

Two Royal Navy ships have been patrolling the waters around the Channel Island after French boats descended on Jersey in a clash over fishing rights.

A Downing Street spokesperson said HMS Severn and HMS Tamar will continue to "monitor the situation as a precautionary measure".

About 60 French fishing vessels gathered at St Helier harbour, with some crews setting off flares, in protest against a new post-Brexit licensing system implemented last week.

Jersey fisherman Josh Dearing said French vessels had first gathered from about 04:30 on Thursday outside the harbour, before coming into the harbour after 06:00 and retreating after 07:00.

Mr Dearing said the scene was "was quite a sight".

"There were probably about 60 boats," he said.

"There were a few hand-held flares and smoke flares going off and apparently a few maybe bangers and stuff going off from the French.

"It was quite a sight. It was impressive. I looked from the shore this morning and it was just like a sea of red lights and flares already going off at sea. It was like an invasion."

There had been rumblings about a planned protest a few days ago, Mr Dearing said, but added that he had not been sure if it was "serious or empty threats".

HMS Tamar leaves Falmouth with dazzle ship paintwork 040521 CREDIT ALAMY
HMS Tamar (file photo) is one of the two Royal Navy ships patrolling Jersey (Picture: Alamy).

He said: "The French being the French, they don't mess around. They can blockade their own harbours – they wouldn't think twice about coming and doing it to us."

The fisherman said he was "absolutely" pleased to hear the news on Wednesday night that the Royal Navy vessels were being deployed to patrol the nearby waters.

Mr Dearing said: "We're completely unprotected in Jersey. We've got nothing except for a few police officers. We don't have a police boat, we don't have a Navy boat, we don't have anything to protect us.

"The French can be hostile. All of our livelihoods are in that harbour and if they wanted to they could cause damage."

Mr Dearing, who said his fishing licence costs about £40,000, said French fishermen who have not been granted a licence to fish had "thrown their toys out of the pram".

He said: "Jersey fisheries has done nothing wrong. They've issued the permits to the French fisherman that were entitled to them and the ones that aren't entitled don't get the permits and that's just life, that's how it is.

"The guys that have historical rights [to fish] have been granted them, as they should've done, and the ones that haven't have just thrown their toys out of the pram."