Following four solid hours of voting on over 3,000 amendments, the Fisheries Committee in the European Parliament today approved the First Reading of the Bill to reform the Common Fisheries Policy.
Commenting on the outcome of the vote in Brussels, Senior Vice President of the Fisheries Committee and Scottish Euro-MP Struan Stevenson said: "This is the longest voting session I have ever participated in during 13 years as an MEP. However, it served to underline the vital importance of this reform and the fact that, since the introduction of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament now has full legislative powers.
"We achieved many of our objectives in today's vote and Scottish fishermen should welcome the outcome. On the fraught issue of discards, we have emphasized the need to help fishermen avoid unwanted by-catch by financing special fishing gear etc.
"However, we agreed that all harvested and regulated species must be landed with a 0-5% discards de-minimis rule that's left up to Member States to implement if they wish.
"The de-minimis rule will allow Member States to throw back any species that have a high survivability rate, like prawns and crabs. The votes got rid of the controversial plans for Transferable Fisheries Concessions altogether, although Member States may introduce a system of temporary transfers, similar to what happens at present, if they wish, within their own zones.
"Member States will also be able to adopt and implement their own day-to-day fisheries management plans within a general framework set by the Commission and subject to consultation with the scientists at ICES and STECF.
"The Commission retain the right to claw back control if they don't like what a Member State is doing, or if it fails to enforce management and conservation controls.
"This is a real breakthrough on the issue of regionalisation and will help wrest control away from the micro-managers in Brussels. Finally and importantly, we agreed to set conservation and sustainable catch targets above the so-called Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) limits (the limit at which a stock can replenish itself and expand in size) for all quota stocks by 2020 at the latest.
"All in all this has been a satisfactory outcome to over four years' work in Parliament. We now await the outcome of the final vote on First Reading which is anticipated to be held in Strasbourg in February next year. With 13 votes in favour of the reform package, 10 votes against and 2 abstentions in committee today, the victory was a narrow one and there is still a lot of work to do to ensure we can deliver for Scotland's fishermen."
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