Guernsey fishermen criticise 'secret deal' with UK

Andy Le Prevost
Image caption Mr Le Prevost said errors were made in the implementation of the licences

The States of Guernsey has been strongly criticised by the island's fishing community over an "appalling lack of transparency".

Guernsey's Policy Council said it would be making no further comment on a compensation deal struck recently with UK fishermen.

Its only response has been a statement that said the case had been settled to the satisfaction of the States.

The deal relates back to a licensing agreement brought in during 2003.

Andy Le Prevost, Seafresh Fishmongers director, said: "I'm absolutely appalled at the lack of transparency since the settlement.

"I firmly believe local licensing legislation has been a farce since it was brought in.

"It fell apart very quickly and the taxpayers and the fishermen of this island deserve to know the facts.

"They've informed nobody of any detail whatsoever and obviously it is quite clear they wish to make no comments as to detail regarding that.

"The taxpayers of this island deserve to know where their money is going and how these blunders are accounted for, because it is just a continual saga of blunders and it's hidden away from the taxpayer."

He said he would be surprised if this was the last case of its kind.

Mr Le Prevost said: "Licensing was introduced with the best of intentions, but somewhere along the line there were errors made when it was implemented.

"Those errors are now costing the taxpayer and the fishermen through lack of protection... if this was a private enterprise heads would be rolling."

In response to the criticism the Policy Council released a statement: "This case has been settled to the satisfaction of the States of Guernsey. The Policy Council will be making no further comment on the matter."

The Commerce and Employment Department, which is responsible for sea fisheries, has not released a response.

Manage fish stocks

Guernsey's Sea Fisheries Committee started working towards a licensing scheme through Defra - the UK ministry responsible for fisheries - in 1992.

The UK, Jersey and the Isle of Man already had similar schemes in place and Guernsey had to follow suit to comply with European regulations.

However, the process failed when Guernsey was told it would have to reach an agreement with Jersey, which effectively gave Jersey a veto over the implementation of the system.

Attempts to reach an agreement were unsuccessful, and the States agreed to proposals for Guernsey to introduce its own licensing scheme without the approval of Defra.

The Sea Fisheries Committee and the Guernsey Fishermen's Association said at the time the aim of the licence was to manage fish stocks in a sustainable way as without a system any British boat would be allowed to fish in island waters.

Long-running dispute

The system was designed so that any non-local fishermen had to apply for a licence to fish inside the 12-mile limit.

Concerns were raised by Jersey's fishing industry ahead of the licensing system, under which those operating without a licence would face a maximum fine of £50,000, coming into force in October 2003.

The first legal appeals against the system were made about a month after it came into force.

It followed the first round of licence applications, when out of about 80 made by Jersey fishermen just 10 were granted.

A long-running legal dispute followed with appeal following appeal and the matter finally going to the Privy Council.

In 2007 it ruled that Guernsey did not have the power to set a 12-mile limit, but its three-mile limit was valid.

However, negotiations continued between the two island's governments until this year when a final agreement was made.

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