by John Lichfield
Thursday, 6
May 2021
Explainer
16:00

Don’t believe the hype: there is no ‘cod war’ in Jersey

The British press is, once again, getting carried away
by John Lichfield

Don’t believe the British press. This is not a new cod war. It is a whelk war. Lobsters, whelks and scallops are the species mostly fished by French boats in the waters around the Isle of Jersey. 

To begin to understand the storm which has suddenly blown up in the Gulf of Saint Malo, you need to ask a basic question: why are the French threatening to cut off electricity to Jersey but not to Guernsey or the other Channel Islands? 

“The answer is quite simple,” said one senior French regional official. “We have very correct and friendly relations with Guernsey. They play by the friendly rules which have governed relations between Channel Islands and France for centuries. Not on Jersey. There is a new group of leaders there who are fiercely nationalistic and hostile to France.”

“They have dishonestly and unilaterally — and we believe illegally — imposed restrictions on French boats that were not raised during the talks on how fishing here should be organised post-Brexit.”

For centuries, fishing rights around the Channel Islands were governed by bilateral deals between France and the islands. The “Iles Anglo Normandes” are the last part of Duke William’s fiefdom. They are not part of the UK and were never part of the European Union.

But, surprise, surprise, it was agreed on 24 December in the last-minute dash for a post-Brexit trade deal that the islands’12-mile zones would be included in arrangements for continuing access by EU boats to all UK waters. Where deals used to be made locally, everything now had to go through, London, Paris and Brussels.

French and other EU boats could continue to fish up to six miles from the English coast and up to three miles in places around the Channel Islands. Licences would be granted to those boats which had regularly fished those waters in recent years.

This proved complicated to organise (especially with Paris, London and Brussels involved). Boats under 12 metres long don’t have satellite gear to leave a trace of where they have fished. Guernsey agreed to roll over access until June while negotiations continued.

Jersey did the same for small boats but issued licences for 41 bigger French boats, with 17 others pending. When the licences appeared last Friday, they were shot through with unexpected restrictions. Some boats got 170 days of fishing; others a few hours. Boats which fished lobsters were licensed for whelks. Some waters were excluded. 

The reaction of the French government — threatening to switch off the 90% of Jersey electricity which comes by cable from Normandy — was vastly over the top. Regional elections are six weeks away; presidential elections 11 months away.

The reaction of the Norman and Breton fishermen — organising a protest flotilla to St Helier — was perfectly normal, for French fishermen.

What happens now? With goodwill, all could be solved in an afternoon. The Jersey government appears shocked by the way things have spiralled out of hand. 

But French fishermen’s leaders fear that Boris Johnson’s government is too intoxicated by the stick-it-to-the-French headlines in the UK press to seek an early calming of the waters.

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Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
1 year ago

The reaction of the French government — threatening to switch off the 90% of Jersey electricity which comes by cable from Normandy — was vastly over the top.

If someone threatens a small Crown Dependency with that, and with cutting off food and medicine via-blockade, then that is serious. I’m fed up of all the “calm sensible people” (TM) waiving that away. Threatening to cut off electricity deserves all the breathless hype the papers can muster. Jersey did NOT deserve that threat.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago

We shall have to liberate them , like the Falklands-perhaps a flotilla of boats from England like Dunquirk?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

We have yet to avenge the capture of H.M.S. Blazer in 1993.

I gather her Commander was exonerated at his Court Martial.
Rumour has it he had asked for permission to ‘open fire’ but was all too predictably denied by the supine incumbent of No 10.

Chris Martin
Chris Martin
1 year ago

Agreed. Surely the actions of a civilised, normal country would be to invoke the legal dispute procedures that are set out. Instead the French take direct action. In what way is France’s action any different from Putin’s Russia – in Putin’s case threatening to cut off energy supplies to Ukraine and mounting a blockade?

Stephen Rose
Stephen Rose
1 year ago

Thanks for this analysis of the fishing dispute in Jersey, I only wish our broadcast media offered such clarity.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Back in 1993 under perhaps the feeblest PM since records began there was a very similar humiliating incident that received very little coverage at the time.

A confrontation with French fishermen led to the capture of our Patrol Boat,
H.M.S. Blazer.*. Her crew were confined below decks, she was towed into Cherbourg harbour in triumph and her White Ensign ceremonially burnt!
The intervention of the French Navy finally secured her release.

How Nelson,Hawke,Rodney and others too numerous to mention must have “rolled in their graves”!

Let us hope History is not about to repeat itself.

(* the eponymous Jacket, beloved of Cricket Clubs etc, takes its name from a previous H.M.S. Blazer)

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

Tell the Frog eating chancers that the same should apply to the waters of Saint Pierre and Miquelon!

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

An excellent idea, thank you.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Cheese eating surrender monkeys?Don’t we love to hate foreigners?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Particularly the Scotch!

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
1 year ago

Well mainly Nicola Braun Sturgeon ..&her Stasi acolytes

Clem Alford
Clem Alford
1 year ago

Scotch. That’s a drink. Single malts are the best!!!

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago

Actually a lot of them live in London and are key politicians , civil servants , secret service etc etc. I did suggest that SNP take over London ( a sort of Khan-Sturgeon principality like Luxembourg)-and join their fellow country-men and leave Scotland alone.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

“The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England !*

(* Dr Samuel. Johnson , no relation)

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

It is a term coined by Homer Simpson, but it did catch on a bit over here despite us having plenty of our own derogatory term for our historic enemy . The antipathy between England and France goes back over a millennium

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

Yes though we also keep our anti-Dutch expressions, as far as I know both countries are now friendly. Hitchens also seemed to enjoy the latest installment of that long running drama England versus France. However they are allowed to get away continually with bad behaviour. They allowed their fishermen to behave in a threatening way & did not send their navy. That is reserved for escorting people who prefer our benefits to theirs across the channel.

Brian OFlynn
Brian OFlynn
1 year ago

BoJo needs to tread water carefully, Les Malouines was the original name of the Falklands after their discovery by St Malo seafarers and having been mistaken for English tourists in a St Malo bar many years ago during the battle for the Malvinas the name Thatcher and L’Exocet were muttered loudly for us to hear to the embarrassment of the Patron .

There is a growing tension in France against Macron over extreme acts by Islamic groups including the beheading of a teacher and the burning of another Catholic Church…France is one of the oldest Catholic Churches in Christendom, and there are many retired military who are watching Macron with great anxiety to see if he has the bottle for the battle…I wouldn’t risk a war over a few whelks !
Besides and possibly of greater import, Britain has dispatched an Aircraft carrier to the South China sea and needs to act carefully and consistently so that the CCP cannot find excuses for their oft repeated designs on Taiwan

Last edited 1 year ago by Brian OFlynn
Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian OFlynn

Britain has dispatched an Aircraft carrier to the South China sea “
Utter cobblers. Our new toy is going for its first trip. It is going to many places on the way and when it gets to the far east it will spend a short while exercising with old friends – ever heard of the Five Powers Defence Agreement? then it will turn round and come home again.

Linda Brown
Linda Brown
1 year ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

I wouldn’t want to count on New Zealand any longer. PM Jacinda Ardern and her cabinet seem to be fans of the CCP.

Clem Alford
Clem Alford
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian OFlynn

I stand with the French over the Islamic beheading though. Islam is in the Jihadi holy war phase with the whole non Islamic world and especially the West. The global Umma has been called for and funded by the House of Saud’s vast oil wealth.

Last edited 1 year ago by Clem Alford
Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian OFlynn

I attended school in St Malo a few years before the Falkland Islands dust up but even then was very careful to identify as an American rather than a Brit. I was in Buenos Aires about 6 months after the dust up and again made sure that I was identified as American.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago

Wheras the 3 (?) million French people who live in Britain will have nothing to fear.A few years ago a young French woman came to Britain to visit a relative-unfortunately she was murdered by a lorry driver. To catch him the police stopped every lorry ( so they can be efficient when they try) and apprehended him. Contrast to muder of a school-girl in France , whose death didn’t interest their police -the case was later solved by an American policeman on holiday there.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago

I think Jersey should be as nice to the French as the French have been to the UK in the past.

What’s the fishing equivalent of burning live lambs in their transports?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Burning live lambs? Could you please expand I must have missed that one.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago

I’m not sure how many instances there were but at one point French farmers set fire to transports carrying lambs (might have been adult sheep).

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Sadly you are correct!
Apparently in 1990, 219 lambs were burnt alive when angry French farmers highjacked a British lorry and set fire to it.

Perhaps we shouldn’t have bothered to save them from Adolph &Co?

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago

Well we have been at war with each other for the best part of thousand years

Clem Alford
Clem Alford
1 year ago

My favourite meat, roast lamb.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago

And poured away Spanish wine on the French border-the French know how to have a good argument & who thought we would be at war with them so soon?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Burning lambs reminds me rather of
Oradour-sur- Glane.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago

It was an awful thing to do & I didn’t mean to trivilize it.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

No you didn’t!
I was just musing on the barbarity of that species of African Ape, now known as Human beings. ,

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago

I’m feeling rather hysterical as its odd to live through history & I rather suspect we are in for a big war somewhere-too similar to the 1930’s.They seem to want to use Ukraine as the excuse, then possibly start war with Russia?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

Cod War I, II, and III need to be taught in history books as they were some of the world’s most earth shaking Wars. They re-drew all the world’s maps. They changed the world for ever. USA, and UK used this issue to finally fix maritime law for the new world. It was infact cod being the issue, but it was not really about cod at all, it was carving up the world’s oceans into finally a just system using cod as the cover..

They were not actually about cod, they were about establishing the 200 mile Zone.

“An exclusive economic zone extends from the baseline to a maximum of 200 nautical miles (370.4 km; 230.2 mi), thus it includes the contiguous zone.[4] A coastal nation has control of all economic resources within its exclusive economic zone, including fishing, mining, oil exploration, and any pollution of those resources. However, it cannot prohibit passage or loitering above, on, or under the surface of the sea that is in compliance with the laws and regulations adopted by the coastal State in accordance with the provisions of the UN Convention, within that portion of its exclusive economic zone beyond its territorial sea. Before the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982, coastal nations arbitrarily extended their territorial waters in an effort to control activities which are now regulated by the exclusive economic zone, such as offshore oil exploration or fishing rights (see Cod Wars). Indeed, the exclusive economic zone is still popularly, though erroneously, called a coastal nation’s territorial waters.”

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago

“But, surprise, surprise, it was agreed on 24 December …”
Subtle use of the passive voice there, John. Who was pushing for this in the negotiations? My money is on the Commission, and more fool the French for agreeing.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

Well stop paying it! I stopped over 20 years ago. Actually I never started, one way and another, even though there was a time when I liked and respected the BBC.

Michael Pass
Michael Pass
1 year ago

Boats under 12 metres don’t need “satellite gear” they can fit an ordinary AIS Class B transponder for a few hundred euros. It’s not difficult and the prices have come down since I did it on my (sailing) boat over a decade ago.
Anyway, judging from the tracking sites during the “lunch party” to St Helier, they’ve all got AIS anyway.
AIS is much more helpful than radar as it gives you more info. about the target vessel.