EU ministers continue marathon fisheries talks

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Marathon fisheries talks were still going on in Brussels in a bid to agree hefty cuts in permitted catches next year.

Negotiations went through the night as European Union fisheries ministers haggled over EU Commission proposals for cuts of up to 58% in the total catch in a bid to boost conservation.

The talks stalled over disputes about the scientific evidence on which the Commission based its plans for yet another year of belt–tightening by fishermen.

As dawn broke today ministers were still round the table, bidding for the best possible deal for their national fleets.

British fisheries minister Elliot Morley vowed not to breach the scientific advice – but he also insisted that the advice was faulty in some cases, and that there was scope for improved catches for the UK fleet next year.

The Commission is seeking cuts ranging from 25% to nearly 60% in next year's catch quotas, coupled with de–commissioning of vessels and a reduction in the number of fishing days at sea in a last desperate bid at long–term conservation.

Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler said when the talks began yesterday that the "alarming" state of fish stocks left no option but to make more deep cuts in the fishing effort.

He also warned against any haggling to force up national quotas beyond the agreed scientifically–sustainable levels of stocks.