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Deal struck on mackerel quotas for fishermen

An agreement on North Sea fishing quotas has finally been reached, bringing "much-needed certainty" to the industry in Scotland.

Scottish fishermen will be able to catch up to 210,000 tonnes of mackerel, the industry's most valuable catch, following an agreement between the European Union, Norway and the Faroe Islands.

Talks over quotas have been going on since Iceland and the Faroe Islands increased the size of their catches in 2010. Iceland has not signed up to the agreement but may do so in future.

The compromise reached means the Faroe Islands will receive around 12% of the total allowable catch, and the EU and Norway will share around 72% on the basis of their current agreement, with 16% set aside for Icelandic and Russian catches, the Scottish Fishermen's Federation said.

Scottish cod quotas are also to increase by 5% after the talks in London.

The Scottish Government said Scotland's catch makes up around 42% of the total EU quota, and could be worth an extra £83 million this year.

Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "After all these years waiting for a deal, this agreement will bring welcome relief to the Scottish fishing industry.

"There have been times when any agreement seemed far away but we have been clear that any deal would need to be good for the Scottish industry. I believe the increase in almost 100,000 tonnes of mackerel quota will bring much-needed certainty over the next few years and allow businesses to plan ahead.

"Our fishing industry still faces significant challenges, with our fleet having to endure cuts to quotas while at the same time working towards a landing obligation and reducing discards. However, I welcome the end of these talks and I am pleased that the negotiations managed to significantly mitigate reductions in some of our key traditional stocks of haddock and whiting."

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said: "This deal has now led to the signing of an agreement between the EU and Norway on North Sea quota share arrangements for vitally-important whitefish stocks such as cod, haddock, whiting and saithe, with access for Scottish boats into Norwegian waters now coming into operation with immediate effect.

"It also brings forward the likelihood of Scottish whitefish boats gaining access to Faroese waters, which has been denied to them for the past four years because of the mackerel dispute."

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