The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to ban the wasteful practice of throwing away fish at sea in a victory for green groups after more than two years of campaigning.
There are hopes that these changes to the controversial EU Common Fisheries Policy can become law by next year. MEPs voted for the reform package by 502 votes to 137 after being bombarded with complaints, following a series of high-profile campaigns from environmentalists, fishermen and celebrity chefs.
Campaigners are angry that EU boats in the North Sea have to throw away up to half of what they catch to stay within their quotas. The reforms package include:
- Rebuilding fish stocks to sustainable levels
- Setting catch limits in line with the best scientific advice
- Banning discards
- Priority access to those who fish in environmentally beneficial ways
- Tightening the rules on how EU vessels fish in distant waters.
“This is really excellent news,” said the chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who spearheaded a Fish Fight campaign that mobilised hundreds of thousands of people to oppose discards. “It was a nerve-racking morning. We’re really grateful to the thousands of Fish Fighters across Europe who emailed MEPs over the last few days, and helped to head off a last-ditch attempt by some politicians to fatally weaken the discards ban.”
Greenpeace welcomed the MEPs’ vote, saying the reforms were a “momentous shift away from overfishing” and would help to promote small-scale and low-impact fishing methods, which usually cause less environmental harm.
A Greenpeace spokesperson said: “National governments that stand in the way of reform, like Spain and France, will find it increasingly hard to act as proxies for a handful of powerful companies, with no concern for the long-term wellbeing of the oceans or the majority of fishermen.”