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Fishermen give mixed reception to EC deal

Fishermen's leaders yesterday gave a mixed reaction to a new EC deal governing the size of their catches, but welcomed the collapse of a plan that would have forced them to stay in port for 190 days a year.

John Gummer, the Minister of Agriculture, hailed the deal as 'a great victory for the countries of Europe over rigid centralised bureaucracy'. The deal struck in Brussels by EC fisheries ministers yesterday means national governments will now be in charge of policing measures that limit catches to preserve stocks. Britain persuaded the European Commission to withdraw its plans for a rigid regime forcing British boats to stay in port for 190 days a year.

The Fish Conservation Bill, which received Royal Assent last week, will regulate British fishermen. Instead of a blanket requirement for all boats over 10m (33ft) to stay in port for the required time, they will be subjected to an effort test. They will be given fishing days to match days at sea in 1991, and will not be subject to a 'consecutive days in port' rule. Because of increases in haddock stocks in the North Sea, quotas for British boats were increased by 82 per cent, from 42,640 to 77,620 tonnes.

Bob Allen, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said: 'We congratulate the ministers on getting the EC tie-up scheme out of the picture, but we do not accept the Government's approach. We will continue to wage war on the idea of limiting days at sea.'

Dr Gavin Strang, Labour's agriculture spokesman, welcomed the rejection of the EC proposal, but said: 'The Government must now abandon its own plans to . . . enforce the tie-up of Britain's fishing vessels next year.' Scottish nationalists accused Mr Gummer of winning only a hollow victory and said the deal did nothing to ease fishermen's anger.