MINISTERS have welcomed a new agreement on fishing quotas and industry rules after negotiations in Brussels.
UK fisheries minister George Eustice said the “best possible deal” had been secured, with 20% and 15% increases respectively for North Sea monkfish and prawns and 14% for West Coast haddock.
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A proposed 64% cut to cod quota in the Celtic Sea was eased to 26%, while a 35% reduction for sole in the Bristol Channel was lowered to 15%.
The package for next year was signed off at the EU Fisheries and Agriculture Council. Mr Eustice said: “Although these were difficult negotiations, I am pleased that we were able to secure the best possible deal to ensure sustainable fisheries and a strong UK fishing industry.
“While fishermen had feared there would be major cuts from the (European) Commission, by bringing new science to the table we were able to keep the same quota as last year for many species, including monkfish, megrim and pollock in the South West and skates and rays around the UK.
“This was in addition to important increases to North Sea cod and haddock quota which will benefit Scottish fishermen.
“In some cases there are still some reductions in quota, but I entered these discussions with the firm belief that any decisions need to support our shared goals of a thriving fishing industry, sustainable fish stocks and a healthy marine environment.
“If we want a long-term future for our industry we have to listen to the available science and agree fishing opportunities which support the sustainability of our stocks.
“I was disappointed no decision was reached this year to improve bass stocks but will be following up on the commission’s commitment to work with member states in the New Year.”
He added: “The UK has been a lone voice on this issue and it is essential we achieve a balanced approach which reflects the contribution of both commercial fisheries as well as recreational anglers on declining bass numbers.”
Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said the deal was “good news for the fleet”.
He said: “It gives much-needed economic stability not just to them, but to our onshore sector and the coastal communities who depend on the jobs the sector provides.
“Securing a freeze on proposed cuts to days at sea as well as increases in key stocks is welcome news and will help our fishermen with the implementation of the challenging, but transformational discard ban which is being phased in from January 2015 onwards.
“These valuable and timely increases, alongside the increases already secured in past weeks, and the rollover secured on a number of other key species are in line with scientific advice and show that stocks are recovering and the fleet’s conservation efforts over the past decade are paying dividends.”
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