Measures approved today have been hailed by Conservative MEPs as a major step forward in securing the long term sustainability of North Sea fish stocks.

The European Union's North Sea Plan, which was passed by a large majority in the European Parliament, is expected to come into force this summer. It sets limits on fishing quotas to avoid them exceeding levels regarded as sustainable by the latest scientific research.

Conservative MEPs helped shape the legislation and Fisheries Spokesman Nosheena Mobarik said it provided greater certainty for UK fishermen.

"The North Sea is one of our key fishing grounds and we must protect it from overexploitation if we are to safeguard the futures of our fishermen and coastal communities, "she said. "The North Sea Plan helps achieve that.

"Scientists estimate that if properly managed an additional 1.45 million tonnes of fish could be taken from the North Sea on a sustainable basis within a decade, showing that conservation and economic prosperity can, and must, go hand-in-hand.

"Consumers increasingly want to know that the fish they buy is from sustainable sources. These measures will reassure them that if it has been caught by British fishermen in the North Sea, it is.

"It's a classic win-win situation."

The main commercial species in the North Sea include cod, soles, haddock, whiting, plaice, saithe and prawns. In 2015 landings were worth more than £181 million.

The UK will take control of its fishing grounds once it leaves the EU and regards conservation as a key priority.

Baroness Mobarik said: " After Brexit we want our fishing industry to thrive and will work with our European neighbours to champion sustainable fishing. Fish do not recognise international boundaries and continued co-operation is in everyone's interests."