An EU fisheries deal on catches for next year was hailed by the UK today as good for the fishing industry and good for "the health of our seas".

Westminster fisheries minister Richard Benyon emerged from marathon talks just before dawn after fending off a range of quota cuts on the grounds that the need for more reductions was not backed by scientific evidence.

Under the deal sealed after three days of negotiations, catch levels for some white fish stocks off the west of Scotland, English Channel and Irish Sea actually increase while the scale of cutbacks proposed by the European Commission for others has been whittled down.

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Plans to reduce further the limited number of fishing days at sea - part of continuing stock conservation measures - was also resisted by EU ministers.

But the key issue of cod catch levels next year remained unresolved, pending EU fish talks with Norway in January.

That means the threat of a 20% reduction in cod quotas for 2013 is still on the table.

Mr Benyon declared: "This has been my third year attending these frustrating negotiations and 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."

He added: "I always enter these discussions clear in my mind that any decisions on quotas, or days spent at sea, need to be based on three clear principles; following scientific advice, fishing sustainability and the need for continued discard reduction. We stuck to these principles throughout."