The giant fleets have been using “industrial methods” to milk stocks in the twilight of a Brexit pact giving them access to the waters until the end of the month. Their 65ft boats have been seen using dredging equipment up to three times that size. Outraged Jersey fishermen fear future stocks are being destroyed and pleaded for the UK Government to act before its too late.
Their leader Don Thompson revealed the French are plundering “tons and tons of scallops”.
He said: “The heavy gear used by those big powerful boats just wrecks the ground, there’s no two ways about it.
“That’s industrial fishing – and it’s unsustainable fishing. Those are the scallop stocks that our fishermen will rely on for the future and they are being absolutely decimated.”
He also claimed the French have damaged locals’ fishing pots, leaving them with bills running into thousands of pounds.
The scallop boats, historically allowed to fish the Islands’ territorial waters, were allowed to remain in a post-Brexit “amnesty” until the end of April.
After that, the EU’s share of British waters is phased out over five years – after which the UK could exclude European boats completely.
Don said: “All that [unsustainable fishing] is being done under the amnesty provided just to appease the French by our own Government.
“It really is making fishermen very angry.”
He was backed by marine campaigner and photographer David Ferguson. He said: “It’s a well-known fact that continuous dredging will completely decimate the ocean floor and the breeding grounds with it.
“There simply has to be a better way of managing fisheries with our EU colleagues in and around our islands.” Charles Clover, of the Blue Marine Foundation, said: “Jersey ministers need to manage it now or there will be nothing left for the domestic fleet to catch.
“What is going on is unregulated, irresponsible – and it needs to stop.”
Island Environment Minister John Young said: “After the transitional period we will be bringing in measures to conserve stocks in the most sensitive areas.”