EU extends temporary catch limits on fish stocks shared with Britain

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Fishing boats and fisherman are pictured on the beach at Hastings following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Hastings, Britain, June 9, 2020. REUTERS/Matthew Childs

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BRUSSELS, March 23 (Reuters) - European Union ministers agreed on Tuesday to extend to the end of July temporary EU catch limits for fish stocks shared with Britain, to ensure fishing can continue uninterrupted while Brussels and London seek a full-year deal.

In their post-Brexit trade deal, the EU and Britain agreed to jointly set limits each year for fishing their shared stocks after Britain completed its exit from the 27-country bloc on Dec. 31.

They had hoped to negotiate this month a full-year agreement on fishing opportunities for 2021.

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As a temporary solution, EU ministers agreed to apply until July 31 EU catch limits for shared stocks based on scientific advisors' recommendations. This will replace a temporary rule, which had rolled over last year's EU catch limits for stocks including plaice, cod, haddock and whiting, until March 31.

"We found a solution so that EU fleets can continue to operate in their traditional fishing grounds after 31 March," said Portuguese maritime minister Ricardo Serrao Santos, who chaired the meeting.

A European Commission representative said EU-British talks last week made significant progress towards a proper agreement, but that the roughly 75 fish stocks concerned meant the talks were complex and required further time.

Brussels sets annual limits on catches from around 100 commercial stocks of fish shared between EU countries in European waters, to avoid over-fishing.

The EU and Britain are also negotiating catch limits for shared deep-sea stocks in 2022.

Separately, Norway, Britain and the EU this month reached a deal on catch limits for jointly managed North Sea fish stocks following Brexit. read more

Access to one another's fish stocks became a vexed issue in Brexit divorce negotiations, with the two sides ultimately agreeing a gradual fall in the quotas European fleets can catch in British waters, reaching a 25% reduction in value terms after 5-1/2 years.

After that, there will be annual talks to set the amount EU boats can catch in British waters and vice-versa.

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Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by John Chalmers and Giles Elgood

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