A deal to reverse an allegedly catastrophic drive towards emptying the seas of fish has been agreed.
Radical reforms could result in 15m tonnes of more fish in European waters within a decade.
Discussions between the European Parliament, the European Commission and the presidency concluded in the early hours of yesterday morning. Described as an historic agreement, it will bring an end to the annual December haggling over fish quotas.
Fisheries Minister Simon Coveney said the result was “practical, implementable and placing sustainability firm at its core”. He said the outcome would provide for a vital, vibrant industry and healthy fishing stock long into the future.
The main elements of the deal were an agreement on quotas that respect scientific advice; an end to discarding fish at sea by 2017; a new regionalist decision-making process; and a cut in fleet size.
“The reform, when taken as a whole, delivers on not just a discards ban but also provides the means for new ways of sustainable fishing,” said Mr Coveney.
The Hague Preference that gives Ireland an additional share of fish, but which has had to be fought for every year, is safe for the next decade.
However, MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher said he was disappointed Mr Coveney did not push to have this enshrined in the reform.
“I did not want to be responsible for the breakdown of the negotiations which could have delayed the reform beyond the Irish presidency so I proposed, as a last ditch effort, to have it in the recital. I’m pleased this was accepted.”
In a short statement, yesterday, the Federation of Irish Fishermen said it was disappointed over the Hague Preference (which each year guarantees Ireland extra quota in key stocks) not being enshrined in the reform.
Environmental groups congratulated the Irish presidency and the MEPs, but World Wildlife Fund’s Tony Long said a plan, that would absolutely end over-fishing, had not been achieved because of the intransigence of big fishing countries such as Spain and France.
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