STRASBOURG, France, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- The European Parliament this week gave final approval to fishing sustainability reforms that include banning the practice of discarding unwanted fish at sea.
Changes to the EU's Common Fisheries Policy aimed at preventing overfishing were approved in a plenary vote Tuesday in Strasbourg, France and will take effect Jan. 1.
Key among them is a discard ban, which was sought by the European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Maria Damanaki as a way to end the practice of fishermen dumping millions of tons of edible fish overboard to die -- usually because they are of an unwanted species or size.
Such discards account for almost a quarter of total EU catches, and have been blasted by opponents as wasteful and a major reason for declining fish stocks.
To end the "wasteful practice," fishing vessels will now have to land at least 95 percent of all catches starting gradually beginning in 2015.
In another change, fishing quotas will be set a regional levels rather than centrally, and fishermen will have to respect the "maximum sustainable yield" in which catches are limited no more than a given stock can reproduce in a year.
"The reform will tackle the biggest problem of the Common Fisheries Policy, which is continued overfishing," German Member of European Parliament Ulrike Rodust said in a statement. "The Council of the EU will now be obliged to act in a sustainable way when negotiating fishing quotas."
"Today's vote by the European Parliament means that we now have a policy which will radically change our fisheries and will pave the way for a sustainable future for our fishermen and our resources," Damanaki said.
The vote, she declared, will "put an end to wasteful practices" in the short term and serve as "a driver for what is most needed in today's Europe: a return to growth and jobs for our coastal communities."
The vote was also hailed by British Fisheries Minister George Eustice as the successful result of a "long fight to reform the broken Common Fisheries Policy and end the shameful practice of perfectly good fish being thrown dead back into the sea.
"Today's vote signifies a new chapter for the CFP that will make fishing more sustainable, will end the centralized one-size-fits-all approach to decision making and will make discards a thing of the past."
While praising the three core aims of the CFP reform -- enhanced regional control, a ban on discards and a move toward the concept of maximum sustainable yield -- the Scottish Fishermen's Federation warned it has "some fundamental flaws."
"This all sounds like common sense, with much to celebrate," SFF Chief Executive Bertie Armstrong said. "But unfortunately, the reformed CFP has failed completely to demonstrate any understanding of the difference between political aspirations and sensible regulation."
For instance, Armstrong asserted there "is absolutely no indication on how a discards ban could be implemented. The aspiration is all very well, but trying to develop a workable management regime, especially in the complex mixed stock fisheries that exist around our coasts, is an unbelievably difficult challenge."