French fishermen from the Channel coasts can finally get their heads above water. After more than a year of diplomatic and commercial battle between Paris and London, and a few battles in the Channel later, the outcome is finally known. France has obtained 1,054 fishing licenses from the UK and the Channel Islands, allowing holders to continue fishing in their waters, as before Brexit. These licenses are in addition to the 40 issued by the Channel Island of Guernsey in December 2021.
For the dozens of fishermen who have remained on the floor or whose activity has been drastically reduced, the government has planned an "individual support plan" (PAI), or fleet exit plan for the boats that will be destroyed. “It is not with lightness of heart that we accept a fleet exit plan. But we have been waiting for this decree for months: finally, business leaders will be able to organize themselves, move forward”, added declared to AFP Hubert Carré, director general of the national fisheries committee. This plan could concern more than a hundred ships distributed between Brittany, Normandy and Hauts-de-France. The overall envelope of the device is currently 60 million euros, financed by the European Commission.
According to the decree published in the Official Journal on Thursday 6 October, any vessel for which aid is requested must have carried out fishing activities for at least 90 days per year during the last two years preceding the year of the date of submission of the request.
In addition, the ship must have "entered the fleet before January 1, 2021". Also, to access this individual support, fishermen will have to justify a dependence of at least 20% of the total value of the sales of their catches made during the reference year 2019 or 2020 in British waters, Jersey or of Guernsey. Or demonstrate that they do not hold a fishing license giving access to the British 6-12 mile zone or the Channel Islands, and justify a prior activity in this zone.
The amount of aid will be calculated for each vessel according to its power. In addition, the beneficiary is prohibited from fitting out a new vessel or increasing its fishing capacity "during the five years following payment of the aid". A ban perceived as "an additional constraint", regretted Hubert Carré. For the national committee, the renewal of the aging French fleet requires the fitting out of more modern, more comfortable and quieter ships, and therefore more powerful.
Fishermen have until November 18 to apply for aid. If their application is accepted, they undertake to take their vessel out of the fleet within 90 calendar days.
Since the formalization of Brexit, the British coastguards have been on the alert and monitoring French ships sailing in their territorial waters. At the end of September, the Jersey Evening Post newspaper reported on the sentencing of two French fishermen to a fine of 3,000 pounds sterling each for illegal fishing in the waters of Jersey, which has already granted fishing licenses. The French sailors explained in court that they did not want to break the rules imposed by the United Kingdom since Brexit, but thought they could continue to fish, as usual in these waters.