EU Common Fisheries Policy for 2013 includes agreement to keep permitted days at sea at 2012 levels

LONDON , December 21, 2012 () – SCOTLAND'S fishing leaders yesterday welcomed an EU quota deal that threw out proposals to cut the number of days they spent at sea.

The agreement, following three days of talks between European fisheries ministers, allows for catch levels to increase for some white fish stocks off the west of Scotland and scaled back cuts in other quotas.

Although the key issue of cod catch levels remained unresolved, fishing leaders praised the deal as containing "notable successes" in helping the Scottish fleet to survive.

Richard Benyon, the fisheries minister, who led the British delegation, said it was the "best possible deal".

Richard Lochhead, his Scottish counterpart, said it was the "first big chink of light" for the industry in many years.

The Common Fisheries Policy deal for 2013 includes an agreement on keeping permitted days at sea at 2012 levels after Mr Benyon successfully argued against proposals to cut them by a quarter. The quota for west of Scotland prawns increased by 18 per cent and the proposed 48 per cent cut in the haddock quota has been reduced to 30 per cent.

Although the key issue of cod catch levels was unresolved, the Government joined other states to stop automatic cuts to North Sea cod and days at sea.

Fishing industry leaders said that paves the way for the EU to negotiate with Norway a cod total allowable catch for 2013 for the North Sea that is at the same level as this year, rather than the 20 per cent cut originally proposed.

Bertie Armstrong, the chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, paid tribute to the negotiating stance of UK and Scottish ministers for the "common sense" deal.

"Fishing effort in Scotland has been slashed by almost 70 per cent over the last 10 years and we were quite simply at a stage where the fleet could not sustain any more cuts," he said. "These were hard–fought negotiations but on balance the package of measures agreed brings a degree of stability for the Scottish fleet."

But he warned the industry still faced "considerable challenges" such as increased operating costs.

Mr Benyon said: "I am delighted that we were able to secure the best possible deal for the UK fishing industry. The current cod recovery plan has failed to deliver.

"It was one of my priorities to ensure that days at sea for fishermen would remain the same next year and that is exactly what has been achieved."

Mr Lochhead, who was also part of the UK negotiating team, told BBC Radio Scotland that fishermen were "just breathing a huge sigh of relief because these talks actually paid off for once and hopefully they will have a brighter 2013".

(c) 2012 The Telegraph Group Limited, London

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