A "STRONG strong" deal for Wales’ fishing industry will safeguard fish stocks and protect coastal communities, according to a Welsh Government minister.

Negotiations between the UK and the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels concluded in the early hours of Wednesday (December 19).

A deal for the year ahead was agreed, which Lesley Griffiths - Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs - said was 'more important than ever with the uncertainty Brexit presents'.

The deal will 'avoid needless discards of sea bass and protect the interests of commercial and recreational fishers whilst keeping the stock on track to recovery'.

Quotas for skate, plaice, haddock and megrim in the Celtic Sea will increase or maintain, as will those for cod, haddock, plaice and sole in the Irish Sea while still meeting sustainability targets.

Interim solutions will also be looked for to the challenges posed by zero-catch advice for a number of species.

Said Ms Griffiths: “I would like to thank the members of the Welsh Marine Fisheries Advisory Group who have helped identify the key issues around sea bass and other important stocks in Wales.

"As a result, we were able to present a strong Welsh case to the Presidency and Commission, along with colleagues from the UK Government and other Devolved Administrations.

“In line with our commitments to ensure our natural resources are sustainably managed, my priority was to safeguard fish stocks whilst securing a positive outcome for those coastal communities whose economies depend so much on the sea.

"This year’s negotiations were more important than ever with the uncertainty Brexit presents.

“There is a need to fish at sustainable levels based on the best available scientific advice.

"Finding the right balance in the negotiations was a challenge but we were successful in securing a deal which matches Wales’ priorities.

“I believe a strong and fair balance was struck between protecting the economic interests of small-scale fishers and recreational anglers with the need to move stocks toward the position where they can be fished sustainably into the future.”