Europe has moved a step closer to phasing out the discarding of unwanted fish after fisheries ministers agreed on a ban to the controversial practice.
The new deal – struck after all-night talks – will see the practice of throwing edible but unwanted dead fish back in the sea phased out between 2014 and 2017 in all European Union Member States.
According to the deal, a ban on discarding pelagic fish – including mackerel and herring - will start from 2015, with other fish including cod banned from 2016.
“This is a historic moment in reforming the broken Common Fisheries Policy,” said UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon. “The scandal of discards has gone on for too long.”
“The result we have achieved today is another step in the right direction and will prove to be good for both fishermen and the marine environment,” he said.
Speaking at the end of the all-night discussion, president-in-office of the Fisheries Council, Ireland's Agriculture and Marine Minister Simon Coveney suggested that talks had been ‘a little tense.’
Coveney insisted the Council was "serious about bringing about a fundamental change in the way in which our fish stocks are managed".
However he said that compromise is needed as different countries had "different levels of preparedness" for such a ban on discards – which are often carried out by fleets for economic reasons, such as to comply with fishing quota restrictions.
The deal was supported by 26 EU governments, with only Sweden voting against.
However, the agreement is yet to be ratified by the European Parliament who may still refuse to accept the proposed deal.