An EU fisheries deal on catches for next year has been hailed by the UK as good for the fishing industry and good for "the health of our seas".
Fisheries minister Richard Benyon emerged from marathon talks just before dawn after fending off a range of quota cuts on the grounds that the need for more reductions was not backed by scientific evidence.
Under the deal sealed after three days of negotiations, catch levels for some white fish stocks off the west of Scotland, English Channel and Irish Sea actually increase while the scale of cutbacks proposed by the European Commission for others has been whittled down.
Plans to reduce further the limited number of fishing days at sea - part of continuing stock conservation measures - was also resisted by EU ministers. But the key issue of cod catch levels next year remained unresolved, pending EU fish talks with Norway in January. That means the threat of a 20% reduction in cod quotas for 2013 is still on the table.
Mr Benyon declared: "This has been my third year attending these frustrating negotiations and I am delighted that we were able to secure the best possible deal for the UK fishing industry. The current Cod Recovery Plan has failed to deliver. It was one of my priorities to ensure that days at sea for fishermen would remain the same next year and that is exactly what has been achieved."
The annual quota-fixing talks became the usual battle between belt-tightening cutbacks demanded by the Commission on the basis of scientific evidence of dwindling stocks and ministers' determination to keep beleaguered fishing communities afloat - economically and literally.
This year Mr Benyon and other ministers seized on signs of stock recovery in some areas and argued successfully that, in some cases, the scientific evidence for reductions was inadequate or outdated.
Mr Benyon in particular warned that unjustified cutbacks would only have contributed to an increase in the practice by fleets of "discarding" - throwing edible fish back into the sea, dead, to avoid illegally landing catches exceeding quotas.
The issue has been widely publicised across the UK by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, whose "Hugh's Fish Fight" campaign against wasting fish through discarding has been endorsed by celebrities including Sir Richard Branson, Stephen Fry and Ricky Gervais.
Euro-MPs added to pressure for change by voting on Tuesday for a ban on throwing away perfectly good fish as part of sweeping reform of the current controversial Common Fisheries Policy. Before returning to London, Mr Benyon insisted he would continue the fight to prevent cod catch cuts in the January talks between the EU and key fishing partner Norway.