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French fishermen temporarily lose access to Guernsey waters

FILE PHOTO - A man walks along the beach in Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, July 2, 2017. Picture taken July 2, 2017. REUTERS/Russell Boyce

PARIS (Reuters) - French fishermen are temporarily banned from entering the waters of Guernsey due to post-Brexit administrative changes that the authorities expect to resolve in the coming days, the French Agriculture Ministry said on Saturday.

The agreement on water access to Guernsey coasts, one of the Channel Islands situated near the French coast of Normandy, was based on a European fisheries treaty that expired automatically on Friday night with Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Britain and the EU now need to negotiate a post-Brexit trade agreement but for now, the relationship is a business-as-usual transition period until the end of this year, meaning that French fishermen would retain access to Guernsey waters.

However the authorities in Guernsey, a British crown dependency, decided to install a new system where boats would need to get individual authorizations to enter the waters 6 to 12 miles off its coasts.

“The procedure for requesting these authorizations must be put in place next week. During this period, access by French vessels to Guernsey waters is temporarily suspended,” the Agricultural Ministry said in a statement.

The governments of Guernsey, Alderney and Sark said in a statement on Friday that they had put in place a package of measures to ensure continuity of access for the remainder of 2020 for French vessels that previously fished in their waters.

The French ministry said fishing in Guernsey waters accounted for a small part of fisheries activities in the area.

It gave figures for 2018, saying around 140 boats went fishing in Guernsey waters rich with lobsters, king scallops and crabs, with only 30 of them active in late January and early February.

Reporting by Gus Trompiz and Maya Nikolaeva; Additional reporting by David Milliken in London; Editing by Frances Kerry