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Fishing


although at a political level there’s a suggestion that the recovery is ongoing. “It would be good, in an ideal world, if we had a common position with Guernsey toward the UK,” explains Constable Norman.


Staying afloat Although Guernsey got its fingers burned once, Chris Morris explains that this hasn’t put them off bringing back a similar licensing system. “We’re looking to reinstate a licensing control in the three- to 12-mile limit and are currently in negotiations with the UK Government,” he says. Naturally, because of the problems with


the last regime, Jersey’s fishermen are keen to know what’s going on in Guernsey’s negotiations, and Chris Morris says that they “will be consulting with Jersey, but at an appropriate stage in the negotiations on the FMA”. There’s no doubt the Channel Islands


are supportive of their fishing industries, and this may be because they deliver a lot more than the simple value of their catches. “For every person employed afloat, they say 11 are employed ashore,” says Dougal Lane. However, there are challenges on many


fronts, not least the issue of rising fuel prices. “Fossil fuels are the industry’s weakness,” says Lane. “The price is killing us, and as the supermarkets push the price of food down every day, our costs are only going up.” The islands have two answers to this


problem, one focuses on delivering quality and the other on adaptability. Jersey’s lobster fishery was recently granted ‘sustainable fishery status’ from the Marine Stewardship Council, and as a bass fisherman, Lane receives 25 per cent more for delivering the highest grade of fish to French markets. Constable Norman believes that sustainability is an area where the government


has a key role to play. “Our job is to help them [the fishermen] make sure stocks are preserved and that the industry isn’t over regulated,” he explains. Fishing will never be easy, but with the


threats posed by the EU and fuel prices, the ability to adapt to new conditions could prove to be the fishermen’s greatest quality. And as Constable Norman is happy to highlight, fishermen in the Channel Islands have another good reason to be lauded. “The industry’s strength is undoubtedly


the guys who go out in many weathers. It’s a heroic way of life – they put their lives at risk to bring us this wonderful produce of the sea,” he says. There’s no doubt that these words hold true in both islands, whatever their differences may be. l


KIRSTEN MOREL is on the businesslife.co editorial board


Channel Island fisheries: a brief history


GIVEN THE influence of the marine environment on such small islands, it will come as no surprise that the history of Channel Island fishing goes back for millennia. Evidence of oyster fishing has been found at La Hougue Bie,


Jersey, a 4,000-year-old Neolithic grave, and in Guernsey there’s evidence of fishing from 6500BC. However, the first documented evidence of an actual trade in fish comes from the 13th century, and by the 14th century, documents in Jersey show 25 per cent of all customs revenue was generated by fisheries. The real boom began in the 17th century when Jersey in particular became a major player in the North Atlantic cod fishery. By the 19th century, one Jersey company was taking the plaudits and much of the money – Robin, Pipon and Co grew to such a size that it was described as being ‘the best syndicated business in


54 businesslife.co October/November 2011


North America directed to a single definite end’ after the Hudson Bay Co. The 19th century also saw the rise and fall of the oyster fishery off Jersey’s east coast which led to the development of many of the small harbours still around the island. Although fisheries diminished during the 20th century,


the islands’ fishermen have constantly adapted and sought new markets. Guernsey developed a strong scallop trade to the US, which peaked in the 1970s. And according to Don Thompson, President of the Jersey Fishermen’s Association: “Jersey fishermen were at the forefront of developing the offshore crab and lobster fishery.” They successfully developed ‘vivier’ boats, which kept the catch


fresh while at sea and enabled the fleet to travel as far as the north of Scotland.


PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF JERSEY TOURISM


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