A European Union deal on fish catches for next year contains some notable successes for the industry in Scotland, fishermen's leaders have said.

The Scottish Fishermen's Federation said the "hard-fought" negotiations in Brussels should provide the fleet with increased sustainability.

That message was echoed by Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead, who alongside his UK counterpart Richard Benyon was involved in the talks which concluded yesterday morning.

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Mr Lochhead said the deal contained some "really significant successes".

He added: "This is the first big chink of light we've seen for many, many years. I think that's why the fishermen are a bit more optimistic."

Under the deal reached after three days of negotiations, catch levels for some white fish stocks off the west of Scotland actually increase, while the scale of cutbacks proposed by the European Commission for other stocks has been whittled down.

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

Yesterday's deal for 2013 includes an agreement on keeping permitted days at sea at 2012 levels, rather than cutting them by up to one-quarter.

Meanwhile, the quota for west of Scotland prawns is increased by 18% and the proposed 48% cut in the haddock quota has been reduced to a 30% fall.

Although the key issue of cod catch levels for next year is still unresolved, the UK Government has led the British delegation in fisheries negotiations and joined other member states to stop automatic cuts to the North Sea cod catch and days at sea.

Fishing industry leaders believe that paves the way for the EU to negotiate with Norway a total allowable cod catch for 2013 for the North Sea that is at the same level as this year, rather than the 20% cut originally proposed.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said: "Considerable credit has to go to the Scottish and UK governments for their negotiating stance, which has ensured that a commonsense approach on fisheries management based on the science has been adopted.

"We were facing the very real danger of the decision-making being caught in legal red tape that would have caused immense economic hardship and done nothing to aid fish stock conservation and sustainable harvesting.

"Fishing effort in Scotland has been slashed by almost 70% over the past 10 years and we were quite simply at a stage where the fleet could not sustain any more cuts."

He added: "These were hard-fought negotiations but on balance the package of measures agreed brings a degree of stability for the Scottish fleet in 2013."

While he said the deal had some notable successes, he warned the industry still faced considerable challenges, such as increased operating costs.

Mr Lochhead said: "I actually think some of the really significant successes we've secured here in Brussels will at long last lead to some really good stability for Scottish fishermen, something they've been looking for for many, many years.

"The biggest breakthrough was the cod recovery plan finally being frozen, ie the automatic cuts in days at sea and quota that flows from that plan have been brought to a halt."

Mr Lochhead added: "Our fishermen don't just need quotas to allow them to land fish ashore and make a living and supply food for our tables; they need time at sea to catch these quotas.

"These have been the two bugbears for many, many years because some of these regulations, designed in Brussels, are so ill-fitting for Scottish waters. That's why there's been such a breakthrough at these talks this week."

After the negotiations, Mr Benyon said: "I am delighted that we were able to secure the best possible deal for the UK fishing industry."