The EU Fisheries Council to finalise catching opportunities for 2017 has concluded early this morning (14 December) in Brussels with quota increases for many key fish stocks for the Scottish fleet, reflecting the general improving trend of our fisheries.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “Overall, this is a positive outcome for Scotland which underlines the sustainable fishing practices adopted by our fleet. The agreement will bring welcome economic stability to Scottish fishing communities over the coming year.

“We enjoyed a good working relationship with the Scottish fisheries minister and his team during these negotiations and this aided the process.”

Quotas going up include North Sea cod (+17%) and whiting (+17%), both of which come under the umbrella of the discard ban (landing obligation) next year with these figures including quota uplifts to help fishermen cope with the management regime.

Also increasing in the North Sea is saithe (+53%), monkfish (+20%), hake (+12%) and prawns (+46%). North Sea haddock is down by 46% so as to rectify a previous error made in the scientific assessment. Also down is North Sea herring (- 7%).

For the West of Scotland, haddock is down 47%, while Rockall haddock sees a 45% increase in quota. Quotas for West of Scotland saithe, ling, megrim and monkfish are all increased. West of Scotland prawns and the scientific west coast herring quota remain unchanged.

Mr Armstrong said: “Although the outcome of the talks is good for the fishing fleet, we are concerned about the potential difficulties caused by more species coming into the discard ban regime. Fishermen hate discarding, but there is the worrying potential of mixed species fisheries closing down early because the catch allocation of one type of fish has been fully utilised. This is something that will have to be monitored very closely over the coming months.

“With Brexit now looming, fishermen can look to the future with real optimism as we are on the cusp of an exciting new era as a coastal state with full control of our 200-mile exclusive economic zone. This will give us the opportunity for fairer shares in catching opportunity and better fit-for-purpose sustainable fisheries management, which will benefit our coastal communities.”