By Terje Solsvik and Tim Barsoe
OSLO/COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Norway, Britain and the European Union have reached a trilateral deal on catch limits for jointly managed North Sea fish stocks following the UK's exit from the EU, the three parties said on Tuesday.
The new trilateral deal, covering common North Sea fishing quotas for cod, haddock, plaice, whiting, herring and saithe, is the first step toward ending legal havoc in key fishing waters since Britain completed its exit from the EU on Dec. 31.
British Fisheries Minister Victoria Prentis said that while the new accord covers common North Sea quotas, bilateral talks were underway with the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands to confirm access arrangements and fish quota exchanges.
British, Danish, German, Swedish and French vessels all catch fish in the Norwegian part of the North Sea, home to some of the richest fishing stocks in Europe.
Norway had sought a trilateral pact with Britain and the EU on management of North Sea fish that swim between waters belonging to the EU, Norway and Britain - before making separate deals with the EU and Britain on quotas.
Norway, which is outside the EU but inside the European single market, had previously negotiated annually with the bloc about management of common fish stocks, access to each other's waters and exchange of fish quotas.
That had to change, however, after Britain completed its exit from the EU at the end of last year.
The lack of a deal especially harmed Danish fishermen as it had governed their catches of cod, pollock, hake and monkfish in a key Norwegian area of the North Sea. Many Danish fishing vessels have been confined to ports since January.
"The deal will mean that Danish fishermen will have access to Norwegian waters again," said Kenn Skau Fischer, head of the Danish Fishermen Organization, the EU country's main fishing lobby group.
"And it will mean that they have the possibility to plan their fishing for the whole year. Now they can actually make money again," he told Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen; Editing by Gwladys Fouche and Mark Heinrich)