Wednesday 17 July 2019
Update on the extension of the Bailiwick's territorial seas
Mr Bailiff, in January this year the States of Deliberation considered a policy letter from the Policy & Resources Committee regarding the Bailiwick's territorial seas. The States resolved that Guernsey's territorial seas should be extended from the current limit of 3 nautical miles to a limit of 12 nautical miles from what is known as the 'baselines' - which is generally the low water line along the coast. The States of Alderney and the Chief Pleas of Sark made similar and complementary decisions in regard to their own waters.
A 12 nautical mile limit means that the Bailiwick of Guernsey will have territorial seas limits in line with international norms.
Since the States' decision in January, officers have continued to progress the matter. The Policy & Resources Committee formally requested, on behalf of the whole Bailiwick, that the UK make the necessary Order in Council.
The Privy Council considered and advised that the requisite Order in Council should be made at its meeting last week and it was subsequently made. The Order in Council will now be registered in the Royal Court of Guernsey next Monday and will come into effect the following day. So, with effect from 23 July this year, the Bailiwick's territorial seas will extend to the 12 nautical mile limit- except in certain directions where it will be less due to the proximity of France or Jersey.
The extension is a unilateral act of the UK made on our behalf in accordance with international law. It did not need to be negotiated or agreed with France, which is the only country which will share a territorial seas boundary with us. Obviously, our Bailiwick's territorial seas will also border those of Jersey. We have ensured that our regional partners have been kept informed as we sought extension of the Bailiwick's territorial seas. We recognise our historic and continuing links and are keen to continue our good neighbour policy. As is appropriate and as was indicated in the policy letter, the UK is formally notifying France of the date of extension on our behalf.
I do not intend to go into all the advantages and disadvantages of extending the territorial seas now. That was covered in the Committee's policy letter and in debate in January. I would just reiterate that the three jurisdictions of the Bailiwick will have significantly more rights and control in the 3 to 12 nm area. In particular they will have greater control over activities in the 3-12 nm area as they will have legislative competence and corresponding law enforcement powers in that area. Also, in general, there is an automatic extension of applicable Bailiwick legislation to the 12 nm limit - with the exception of some fishing legislation, which I will mention in a moment. The extension of the territorial seas will not increase the number and type of responsibilities but it will, self-evidently, mean that a larger area has to be managed by the Bailiwick's authorities. Existing search and rescue regional operational arrangements and existing pollution incident plans are unaffected by the expansion of the territorial seas.
Fishing access in the waters around the Bailiwick, from 0 to 12 nautical miles, will remain unchanged on the date of extension. The UK's participation in the London Fisheries Convention (or 'LFC') will continue until the UK ceases to be a Member State of the European Union. As Bailiwick waters in the 6-12 nm area are covered by the LFC, fishing access for French fishermen to catch demersal and crab species in accordance with the LFC will continue for the time being.
I should say that the policy letter on territorial seas indicated that the UK would cease to be a party to the LFC in July this year - that date reflected information and advice from the UK government. However, it was clarified by the UK government in May that the UK's withdrawal from the LFC would actually take effect either on 03 July 2019 or on the date when the UK leaves the EU, whichever is the later. We now know, of course, that it was not 03 July but will be the date of 'Brexit'.
The three jurisdictions of the Bailiwick agreed to 'freeze' fishing arrangements for an initial period following extension of the territorial seas. The Bailiwick fisheries management regime will remain the same as it was before extension until any new regime is subsequently agreed between the Bailiwick authorities.
As set out in the policy letter, the next steps are for the precise co-ordinates of the boundaries of the territorial seas to be discussed and agreed. The median lines - which in essence are halfway between the baselines for each jurisdiction and which form the boundaries between the territorial seas of Guernsey, Alderney and Sark - will exist from the moment of extension. The exact co-ordinates of those lines will be formally agreed between the islands following extension. Similarly, the international boundaries, between the Bailiwick's waters and those of France, exist from the moment of extension but the individual co-ordinates of those lines will be negotiated and delimited with France.
In due course, in accordance with the States' Resolutions, there will be further work on the possibility of the transfer of rights over the foreshore and seabed from the Crown to the States of Guernsey or the public or people of Guernsey. Again, similar decisions were made by Alderney and Sark regarding the seabed adjacent to them, reflecting their existing circumstances.
The Order in Council to extend the territorial seas is being registered in Guernsey's Royal Court before it takes effect. Members will recall that the States approved a Projet de Loi making changes to the Reform Law last month, following its Resolutions on the matter in March. Those changes require that UK Acts of Parliament and Orders in Council which seek to apply to Guernsey will generally be referred to the States of Deliberation for approval and consent before such an Act of Parliament or Order in Council is registered in Guernsey's Royal Court. Having said that, if the changes to the Reform Law were already in effect, the territorial seas Order in Council would not be referred to the States of Deliberation for the States to signify their views upon it because the Order in Council was only made by the UK government at the request of the Bailiwick and as the consequence of decisions of the three parliaments of the Bailiwick.
Sir, I trust that States Members, the Guernsey community, and indeed the whole Bailiwick, will join me in celebrating the extension of our territorial seas on 23 July and the corresponding controls and opportunities in the larger area from which we can benefit.
Deputy Al Brouard
Member, Policy & Resources Committee