A SUFFOLK MP has welcomed the relaxation of proposed European fishing quotas for the next year, following talks between fisheries ministers in Brussels.

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Dr Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, praised the “hard-fought” negotiations of her parliamentary colleague and environment under-secretary, Richard Benyon, in securing a deal on fishing quotas for boats fishing off the Suffolk coast.

The agreement followed three days of discussions into the European Commission proposed reduction in North Sea quotas.

Dr Coffey, whose constituency includes much of the Suffolk coast, had been seeking action to protect the local fishing industry, particularly smaller boats measuring less than 10 metres.

She said: “I welcome the hard-fought negotiation undertaken by the fisheries minister.

“The proposal from Europe to reduce the amount of time that fishermen have to catch their cod quota was bad for sustainability, as it forces fishermen to catch closer to shore, often on spawning grounds.

“Cancelling this is a real success for the UK.”

Fishermen faced severe reductions, as part of the Cod Recovery Plan, to the amount of time they could spend at sea catching their quota.

While the fishing industry agreed that cuts were unnecessary, due to an increase in cod stocks, some environmental groups had pushed for stricter quotas.

But restrictions have now been scaled back for many species, despite agreement not yet being reached over a proposed 20% reductions in eastern channel cod.

The number of permitted quarterly fishing days will also remain at 2012 levels next year.

Meanwhile, a proposed 14% cut for sole has been overturned and replaced by a 6% increase, and a 20% reduction in sprat postponed for the next five years.

Dr Coffey added: “The minister has secured an increase in the quota for some fish stocks and overturned reductions to others offering a real life-line for many fishermen.

“I have had assurances from the minister that he will be arguing against the proposed 20% cut in the cod quota set to be decided in January and will continue to fight for Suffolk fishermen.”

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