AN EU fisheries deal on catches for next year is an “unmitigated disaster” for small-scale fishermen, industry experts have claimed.

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Although fisheries minister Richard Benyon has hailed the outcome a success – with the scale of cutbacks proposed by the European Commission whittled down – Jerry Percy, chief executive of the New Under Tens Fishermen’s Association (NUTFA), said small-scale fishermen would suffer. The key issue of cod catch levels has also remained unresolved, pending EU fish talks with Norway in January.

Mr Percy said small-scale fishermen – such as those in Orford, Aldeburgh and Lowestoft – would be hit the hardest, allocated just 4% of the overall quota. “Whilst the UK Fisheries Minister has, as ever, done the best he could, and suggests he was delighted to secure the best-possible deal for the UK fishing industry, the swingeing cuts to many species are an unmitigated disaster for the UK’s small-scale fleet and will do no more than put yet more of this sector, those vessels of less than 10 metres in length, out of business. These vessels, that make up 77% of the active fleet in the UK, are already struggling to survive and with many of the key species being subject to reductions yet again, this will be the final straw for some of the most sustainable and socio economically important vessels around our coast.”

The deal followed a vote by MEPs to back changes to the Common Fisheries Policy, which will be subject to more talks in the New Year.

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