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Last Updated: Friday, 19 December, 2003, 11:09 GMT
Mixed reaction to fishing deal
Cod quotas remain unchanged for 2004
Fishing industry leaders in Scotland have given a mixed reaction after EU ministers reached a deal on quotas.

The agreement increased the amount of haddock and prawns which can be caught but still restricts Scottish trawlers to 15 days at sea per month.

Hamish Morrison of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation said: "They've given us more fish to catch - but no more time to catch them."

Fisheries Minister Ross Finnie said the deal was worth 20m to Scotland.

Industry leaders were briefed on the deal by the Scottish and British ministers on Friday morning.

Giving their initial reaction, they said the Scottish fleet had not been properly rewarded for the massive decommissioning which had taken place over the last year.

Cod catches

However, they were hopeful that further cutbacks in the fleet might be avoided.

The deal, which was struck after three days of negotiations in Brussels, will increase North Sea haddock quotas by 53% and allow fishermen to catch 30% more prawns.

Cod and hake catches have been frozen at last year's level.

We have secured our objective of a better balance between conservation and increased fishing opportunity
Ross Finnie
Fisheries Minister
The measures are designed to conserve stocks of cod, which scientists have warned are at an all-time low.

They had urged the European Commission to implement an outright ban on cod fishing in the North Sea, Irish Sea and off the west coast of Scotland.

The 15 EU nations reached a decision on a long-term recovery plan as well as the catch quotas for next year.

Mr Finnie welcomed a deal which he said was worth more than 20m to Scotland's fishing industry.

"At the start of these negotiations we made clear our determination to deliver better outcomes for conservation, better outcomes for the industry and better outcomes for fishing communities," he said.

Bounteous Sea

"While cod stocks remain below safe biological limits there will continue to be difficulties.

"We understand the challenges the white fish sector will face, but we have secured our objective of a better balance between conservation and increased fishing opportunity."

He said the negotiations had secured "significant increases" in quotas for Scotland's most important stocks.

"We achieved a rollover total allowable catch (TAC) on monkfish which, though less than we wanted, still overturned a commission proposal for a cut of 16%.

"We will now work closely with the industry to ensure that the implementation of this agreement works to the best interests of the Scottish fleet and Scotland's fishing communities."

SNP anger

The Scottish National Party's fisheries spokesman, Richard Lochhead, said: "This is yet another disastrous deal for Scotland.

"Our fishermen have bent over backwards to conserve fish stocks by halving the size of the fleet.

"Instead of UK Fishing Minister Ben Bradshaw and his Scottish counterpart Ross Finnie demanding a reward for Scotland, all our fishing communities have received is another kick in the teeth."

The BBC's Sarah Mukherjee
"It does look as though the British have managed to fight a rear-guard action"

BBC Scotland's Colin Wight
"There has been mixed reaction from Whalsa in Shetland"

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