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OTH Jersey and Guernsey have long histories built on the back of international trade, and while over 40 per cent of their economies are


driven by the financial services industries, other sectors such as tourism, manufacturing, agriculture and fishing also play their part. Indeed, the latter may well lay claim to being the islands’ oldest international business. As a percentage of national income,


however, the fisheries’ contribution is microscopic. First sale values for Jersey were just shy of £8 million in 2010, almost a 20 per cent increase on the previous year. Guernsey’s figures for 2009 show the catch value to be just over £4 million, which was a 14 per cent rise on 2008. In spite of these increases, values have been flat since the turn of the century and in real terms, they have diminished. In contrast to a history of pioneering


fishing ventures abroad, these days both island fleets fish closer to home, but Guernsey has a more diverse catch. Dougal Lane, President of the Guernsey Fishermen’s Association describes the catch as “about 50 per cent wet fish and 50 per cent shellfish”, whereas Jersey concentrates almost entirely on shellfish. The main wet-fish catches are ray as well as restaurant favourites like bass and turbot, while shellfish tends to be mostly crab in Guernsey and lobster in Jersey with scallops in both islands. Indeed, these days, fishing isn’t all about


boats putting out to sea. The islands have growing aquaculture industries exporting oysters, mussels, scallops and ormers (abalone) to Europe and beyond. Figures aren’t available for Guernsey, but Jersey production in 2010 was worth £832,000 – 20 per cent down on 2009 because of infection by the oyster herpes virus, something Guernsey is actively trying to avoid. “Our industry hasn’t been affected but we’ve tightened biosecurity measures to ensure we remain disease free,” says Chris Morris, Guernsey’s Senior Sea Fisheries Officer. The vast majority of marine produce


from both islands is exported to Europe, but where Jersey fishermen once controlled the European shellfish market through their use of ‘vivier’ boats, now it is very much Europe in control of them. “The EU controls everything we do


through the UK and control of the French markets,” says Dougal Lane, and he’s backed


up by Don Thompson, President of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association, who is convinced that eurocrats are unable to take into account the islands’ unique circumstances. “We’re often forced to manage the fishery by Brussels in ways that bear no reflection to the situation in Jersey,” he says.


Bound by agreements It certainly feels as if the Channel Islands are caught in an awkward European net. Not only do French and UK markets dictate prices, but both islands are also linked to European bureaucracy through fisheries management agreements (FMAs) with the UK – although Guernsey’s is under negotiation. These agreements help with access to EU markets and so are important, but many feel Brussels’ wider mandate doesn’t help the islands. And there are concerns that future


changes could hamper the islands further, with Don Thompson worried that the EU quota system may be extended to shellfish. Politicians, however, are adamant that the island’s interests can be well represented. “The EU Common Fisheries Policy is


being reviewed with eyes on reform,” says Constable Len Norman, Jersey’s Assistant Minister for Economic Development. “We don’t know what that reform will be, but we expect to be fully consulted and will resist anything that adversely affects local industry.” He also feels strongly that some agreements with Europe are very important, and cites the ‘Bay of Granville Treaty’ which shares French and Jersey waters, seeing it as “a great benefit to have our own territorial seas and giving us access to French waters.” The situation in Guernsey is somewhat


different. While currently negotiating with the UK they don’t have their own seas up to a 12-mile boundary, instead being limited to a three-mile zone. Dougal Lane, however, prefers this: “Jersey is tied up with France and we don’t want to be,” he says. Guernsey’s ‘go it alone’ attitude to


fishing grounds has created tension between the islands. In 2003, Guernsey introduced a licensing system that Jersey and UK fishermen felt discriminated against them. The row rumbled on for over three years, straining relations between the islands and was ultimately settled by the Privy Council in favour of the Jersey and UK complainants. Today, both presidents of the Fishermen’s Associations maintain that relations between the fishermen are friendly,


➔ October/November 2011 businesslife.co 53


PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF VISITGUERNSEY


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