Hopes of securing radical reforms to the EU's Common Fisheries Policy rose yesterday after an expected bid by French and Spanish ministers to block a ban on discards failed to materialise.
The European Commission is proposing that the practice of throwing unwanted and over-quota fish back into the sea, dead, should be prohibited from the end of 2015.
More than 1.7 million tonnes of fish are said to be discarded in EU waters each year. Opponents describe the practice as wasteful and immoral.
French and Spanish Ministers signalled their opposition in a draft paper circulated last week that rejected a specific deadline for the introduction of a ban.
But at a meeting of Fisheries Ministers in Brussels today the proposal was not put forward.
Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies, who is secretary of the cross-party 'Fish for the Future' group in the European Parliament, welcomed the change of heart.
He said: "I had heard rumours that those opposed to reform could not expect to win a majority, and it looks as though France and Spain decided not to put the issue to the test.
"Nations like Austria, with no fishing fleet of their own, spoke out strongly in favour of a discard ban and it's enormously helpful that countries that eat fish but don't catch it are getting involved in the fight.
"It offers a ray of hope that we might be able to put in place a sustainable fisheries policy that can allow stocks to recover and give a better long term future for fishermen.”
The Council of Ministers is expected to vote on CFP reform in June, while the first key vote in the European Parliament's fisheries committee will take place in July. An agreement between the two institutions has to be reached before a new fisheries policy can come into force.
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