EU ministers have agreed to a deal that will ban throwing unwanted fish back into the sea in a bid to end decades of overfishing. The new agreement now needs approval of the European Parliament.
The deal, agreed upon at dawn on Wednesday after 36 hours of tense negotiations, will introduce a ban on the practice of throwing undersized or unwanted fish back into the sea, which often die.
This ban would apply to mackerel and herring by 2015 and for other species from 2016. However, some fish will be exempt.
The new agreement now needs approval of the European Parliament.
The current Common Fisheries Policy from the 1970's is widely regarded as a failure for allowing subsidised, industrial-sized fleets to devastate fish stocks. The overhaul of the policy is aimed to restore stocks to healthy levels by 2020.
"We have agreed with a very strong support from the Council. Only one country didn't give support to an updated negotiating mandate for the presidency," said Irish Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Simon Coveney. Ireland has been chairing the talks under the country's six-month EU presidency.
As a part of the deal fishermen would have the right to discard up to 5 percent of their catch at the end of a transitional phase instead of the 7 percent initially proposal.
European fishing boats have long discarded fish, with estimates at a quarter or more of their catch. About 80 percent of Mediterranean and 47 percent of Atlantic stocks are overfished, according to the European Commission. However the ban may pose challenges such as increased costs for the industry in key states such as Spain.
The agreement, which needs the approval of the European Parliament, could end haggling over annual fishing quotas and introduce long-term plans to grow fish stocks.
A World Wide Fund for Nature report said it would take more than 100 years for fish stocks to recover.
hc/dr (Reuters, AFP)