Minister Hails 'Historic' EU Fish Agreement
The Government has said an EU agreement to introduce a blanket ban on dumping dead fish back into the sea is an "historic moment".
EU ministers have backed an overhaul to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which will see an end to a process called "discards" - where fish are thrown back in the sea because they are not the ones the crew intended to catch.
The agreement will see the dumping of edible fish banned for stocks like herring and whiting from January 2014. A ban for white fish stocks was also agreed, to begin in January 2016.
Speaking from Brussels on Wednesday morning after marathon talks, fisheries minister Richard Benyon said: "This is a historic moment in reforming the broken Common Fisheries Policy.
"The scandal of discards has gone on for too long and I'm delighted that the UK has taken such a central role in securing this agreement.
"I am disappointed that some of the measures required to put this ban into place are no longer as ambitious as I had hoped but it's a price I am willing to accept if it means we can get the other details right.
"The final package will still need to be agreed with the EU Parliament but 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."
The issue galvanised wide UK support when chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall launched a "Discards Campaign" which has so far attracted more than 850,000 signatures on a petition condemning the throwing away of perfectly edible fish.
EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki - who once admitted the CFP was "broken" - said the discards system means almost one quarter of all fish caught in European waters is being dumped at sea.
Biggest resistance to fisheries reforms on the scale demanded by MEPs came from France, Portugal and Spain.
Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall said he was pleased with the commitment to ban discards, but added that the "devil is in the detail".