Fishermen return to port early as fuel prices rise

The JERSEY fishing fleet is struggling with huge fuel cost increases and unable to compete on equal terms with its French counterparts, which are receiving emergency government subsidies, according to an industry representative .

Don Thompson, president of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, said the price of marine fuel had almost tripled since the start of 2022 and boats had to return to port earlier than usual because of the cost additional.

“The increases in the past two weeks have been the largest in history. Fuel prices are tripling from what they were at the start of the year,” he said.

“We are used to seeing the price of fuel increase by 0.5p, 1p or 1.5p in one week, not 10p for consecutive weeks. The rate of climb is absolutely incredible.

“Fuel is an important part of a boat’s running costs. What we have seen is that the boats leave and then have to come back earlier than they would have. This affects their capture level.

This week, the French government announced it would provide fuel subsidies as various sectors and the population struggle to cope with rising costs caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Thompson said local fishermen were aggrieved that their French counterparts who use the island’s waters are receiving support, when they are not.

“What is really bothering the boys at the moment is that Jean Castex, the French prime minister, announced a subsidy for the French fleet while the local boats are getting absolutely nothing,” he said. “Thus, the 130 French boats authorized to use Jersey waters and using our waters receive support. It has already been a difficult few years for the fleet – in the face of Brexit and Covid-19 – and the government has promised us support.

‘I wrote to [Environment] Minister [John Young] and [Assistant Environment Minister] Deputy Gregory Guida on this subject, but had no response.

He added that he believed French boats receiving government support could “break” the level playing field under the post-Brexit UK-EU trade deal, to which Jersey was a party.

“I would be interested to know if the action of the French government is illegal under our trade agreement,” he said.

“Jersey fisheries have had strained relations with their French counterparts since Brexit, with both sides unhappy with a new regime where all licenses have been issued by the island’s authorities for the commercial use of its waters. “

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