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UK sends Navy boats to Jersey to defend its fish

Christian Fernsby |
The UK is dispatching two Royal Navy river-class patrol boats to the area around Jersey amid fears of a blockade by French fishing vessels.

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A fleet of French boats is already on course for Jersey, reported Sky News.

The Portsmouth-based HMS Severn and HMS Tamar deployed on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, to Jersey, a Crown dependency, armed with cannons and two on-deck machine guns.

“HMS Severn and HMS Tamar are deploying to Jersey to conduct maritime security patrols. This is a strictly precautionary measure and has been agreed with the Jersey government,” a Ministry of Defence spokesperson was cited as saying.

"I've counted 44 boats in the bay around St Helier with HMS Severn observing from the left. BBC radio reporting that some local fishermen joining the protest. Talks yesterday between French and Jersey have gone "some way to ending the confusion" over licences," Lisa O'carroll wrote.

​It also comes in the wake of France’s threat to cut off the island's electricity; Jersey began issuing licenses to French boats under a new, post-Brexit system last week.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed "unwavering support" for Jersey, located 14 miles (22 km) off the coast of France, insisting on Wednesday night that "any blockade" by French boats would be "completely unjustified".

The decision to deploy gunboats followed Johnson’s talks on Wednesday evening with Jersey's Chief Minister John Le Fondré and Minister of External Affairs Ian Gorst, with the officials underscoring the urgent need for a "de-escalation in tensions" between the Crown dependency and France.

​In response, the head of fisheries for the Normandy region, Dimitri Rogoff, was quoted by AFP as saying that 100 French fishing vessels would sail on Thursday as part of a protest against the new fishing rules but would not attempt to block the port at St. Helier. He added the boats would return to France in the afternoon.

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