At a meeting of the EU Fisheries Management Committee in Brussels, Member States backed a European Commission proposal to merge the two main North Sea trawl gear categories.
These gear categories control the amount of time that vessels can spend at sea and this change will make it easier for vessels to fish with larger mesh. The time at sea limits will be merged on a one to one basis, ensuring that fishermen face no reduction in overall time at sea.
Fisheries Secretary, Richard Lochhead said: “The agreement to amend the Cod Recovery Plan is a step forward in removing an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy in fisheries management.
“It’s right that our fishermen begin to reap the rewards of many years of effort and hard change while the cod stocks in the waters around Scotland are well on the road to recovery, with the level of catches scientists advise for North Sea cod in 2016 increased by up to 15 per cent - the highest catch level recommended in 15 years.
"This change today will also give fishermen more choices as they prepare for the continued implementation of the EU discard ban, which started this year and applies next year to important fish stocks like haddock and prawns.
“It is still important however that the European Commission takes the next step and brings forward a proposal to abolish the Cod Recovery Plan altogether and replace it with a more flexible mixed fishery management plans for the North Sea and the waters off the west coast of Scotland.”