Fish prices are still set to rise this year despite new Scottish quotas being less stringent than feared.

The European Fisheries Council has been holding meetings with industry over the past month to finalise 2010 quotas. The maximum allowable catches for many species have been reduced significantly. The West Coast haddock quota has been cut by 25% less than the proposed 54%, but with the prospect of a further cut in 2011 depending on stock levels.

Although the 2009 quota for North Sea prawns will remain unchanged, a 15% reduction will apply to the West Coast. West Scotland cod quotas rose by 6%.

"While the final situation could have been worse, given the original proposals on the table, there is no doubt that the Scottish industry will be facing another tremendously challenging year, with a continuing downward trend in quota for many species and further restrictions on days at sea," said Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation. "Hopefully, some pain will be alleviated as recession bottoms out, which may lead to market prices improving."

Higher haddock prices had already started coming through, said one retail fish buyer, as the species was available in ever-lower quantities but consumers still wanted to buy it. Cold water prawn prices were also likely to rise this year, the buyer predicted.

WWF said tougher restrictions on Scottish fishermen in recent years were starting to pay off, with recovering cod and haddock stocks, but warned the North Sea whiting quotas were 74% higher than scientific recommendations.

Meanwhile Defra said it was lobbying the EC for more regional responsibility of fisheries management as part of Common Fisheries Policy reform. "We want fishermen to have greater flexibility, landing more but catching less, and to have greater freedom to transfer, buy or sell quota so allocations match what happens at sea, helping to reduce discards," said fisheries minister Huw Irranca-Davies.