EU agrees increases in fishing quotas

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Brussels (AFP)

The EU agreed new fishing quotas for the North Sea and the Atlantic for 2018 after all-night talks Wednesday, the last limits before Britain and its large fleet leave the bloc.

The number of species fished to their "maximum sustainable" levels will increase next year to 53, nine more than in 2017, ministers agreed in Brussels.

But additional limits will be placed on critical stocks of eel and sea bass.

"With this decision we have taken a clear step towards sustainable management of our fish stocks, while making sure that the agreement benefits our fishermen and coastal communities," said Estonian environment minister Siim Kiisler, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

The quotas -- a perennially difficult issue for the 28-nation bloc -- cover the last full year before Britain leaves the EU in March 2019.

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy allows vessels from EU member states to fish between 12 and 200 nautical miles off the UK.

According to government figures, British vessels caught 708,000 tonnes of fish in 2015, worth £775 million ($1 billion, 880 million euros).

Britain said in July that it would also withdraw from a separate 50-year-old fishing pact allowing some foreign countries to fish close to the British coastline.