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Mixed response to new fish quotas

26 January 10 22:43 GMT

Fishermen have described a deal between the EU and Norway on fish quotas as a "mixed bag" for the Scottish fleet.

Norwegian and EU boats will now have greater access to each other's waters for mackerel, although quotas for the fish will be cut this year.

Quotas for North Sea cod will rise by 16.5% for the Scottish fleet but haddock and whiting catches will be reduced under the deal.

An agreement was delayed when talks broke down before Christmas.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said: "The sticking point all along has been the matter of access to EU waters for Norway to complete fishing its quota of mackerel, and in return a reasonable longer term bilateral arrangement for the continued sustainable fishing of this very important stock.

"Normally settled on an annual basis the new agreement will cover a 10-year period, reviewed after five years. This will give some needed certainty to the fishery.

"Not every detail will suit everyone; such is the complexity of the nature of the arrangements.

"Agreement has been reached also on those stocks jointly managed with Norway, including importantly for Scotland's whitefish fleet, cod, haddock and whiting in the North Sea, and on the balance of fish transferred every year between the EU and Norway in the normal course of events."

Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead gave the package a cautious welcome, saying it was the "best possible deal for Scottish fishermen".

But he admitted that some measures designed to protect vulnerable fish stocks would be "unwelcome" among parts of the fleet.

"No country goes home with everything they want, especially with such complex and difficult issues and so many countries involved," he said.

"However, we have won broad agreement between the EU and Norway on how best to tackle the serious long-term dangers to the sustainability of the mackerel stock - potentially a major breakthrough, and cause for optimism for our fleets."

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