The Government has claimed a boost for British fishermen with an increase in quotas for key stocks including cod and haddock in annual negotiations in Brussels.
Ministers secured higher quotas for North Sea cod, haddock and monkfish, Irish Sea cod and haddock, Eastern Channel sole, skates and rays and Bristol Channel plaice and sole, as efforts to ensure sustainable fishing have boosted stocks.
But environmentalists have warned that many stocks in EU waters are still not being fished at sustainable levels.
And while they welcomed the increases secured in the annual talks to allocate the share of fish that can be caught by boats in EU waters, fishermen cautioned against European countries taking “entrenched” positions ahead of Brexit.
After the UK quits the EU it would reclaim exclusive control over fishing in British waters and would be able to offer access on its own terms in future negotiations, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) said.
Following the negotiations in Brussels, Fisheries Minister George Eustice said: “The UK has long championed sustainable fishing and that is starting to yield results in some areas, with a recovery in key stocks and increased quota as a result.
“As we prepare to leave the EU, we will place science-based fisheries management at the heart of future policy.”
SFF chief executive Bertie Armstrong said: “There are fewer than 500 days until the UK leaves the European Union, and, while we are broadly satisfied by the outcome of the December Fisheries Council, there are strong signs that countries both with and without fishing interests are adopting very entrenched views.”
After Brexit, control over the UK’s exclusive economic zone would revert to the UK government’s, which will allow the UK to decide who gets to catch what, where and when, and will be able to negotiate access for other countries on its own terms, he said. “Taking a hardline stance will not help as we move to the situation where international negotiations with the UK as a coastal state determine outcomes.
But Yorkshire MEP Mike Hookem, feared the EU is making plans to continue the terms of its Common Fisheries Policy in British waters post-Brexit.