Video: EU politicians back fish discard ban in Lowestoft, Southwold and Great Yarmouth

EUROPEAN politicians have supported a move to scrap the controversial policy forcing fisherman to dump dead fish back into the sea.

After 24 hours of tense negotiations, the Luxembourg European Council agreed there should be a ban on vessels discarding fish – including more than a dozen small fishing boats based in Lowestoft, Southwold and Great Yarmouth.

No official start date has been set for the ban, and any final settlement will have to be passed by the EU parliament and the EU commission.

But provisional dates published by the EU council would see a ban on discards in mackerel and herring by January 1 2014, and a ban on discards in cod, haddock, plaice, sole phased in by January 1 2018.

The damage caused by discarding fish was highlighted in Channel 4 series Fish Fight (spearheaded by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall), which estimated that 50pc of all fish caught in the North Sea is thrown back dead because fisherman inadvertently catch more than their quota.

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In Lowestoft, both the MP for Waveney Peter Aldous and a representative for Anglia Fishermen's Association welcomed the news as step towards preserving fish stocks.

But both parties have called for radical changes to the fishing quota system if the fishing industry is to remain buoyant in years to come.

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Melvin Robinson, 52, is the representative of the Anglia Fishermen's Association who lives and fishes from Lowestoft.

He said: 'I welcome the ban on discards, and so would all proper fisherman, no one would want to collect fish and have to throw them away again.

'But we are governed by a set of rules that says we can only catch a certain amount of fish.

'No matter what we do, we will always fish in a mixed fishery. Therefore, if you have a quota on plaice then how do you stop catching haddock when you have met your quota for it.

'There is only one way forward for the UK fishing industry and that is to get rid of quotas.

'Without the quota system, there would be no discards to catch because we would be able to bring the fish in and sell them.'

It is believed banning discards will lead to more reliable data on fish stocks to help manage them, and encourage the use of selective fishing equipment.

Mr Aldous said: 'My conclusion is this is a welcome step in the right direction, but it is not the end of the game.

'The decision has also arrived a little late in the day as far as the Lowestoft and Suffolk fishing fleets are concerned.

'The government have produced proposals for providing under 10-metre boats with more quota, but these proposals do need more work being done on them.

'I am in favour of the quota remaining, but need to make sure that inshore boats get a better slice of the action.'

The government said the meeting held in Luxembourg on Monday June 11, was a long-awaited opportunity for EU Fisheries Ministers to agree reforms to end ineffective micro-management from Brussels and address the public outrage over 'discards'.

Richard Benyon MP, Minister for the Natural Environment and Fisheries, said: 'After years of pressing to eliminate discards it was always my aim to get the council to agree to end this wasteful practice as soon as possible.

'While I am disappointed that the Council has not agreed the firm dates that I was seeking, a commitment to eliminating discards is a step in the right direction.'

Greenpeace campaigner Nina Schrank visited Lowestoft recently and met with local fishermen.

She said: 'I've seen for myself the impact that EU fisheries policy, and our own government's decisions, have had on communities like Lowestoft.

'This year's reform of the Common Fisheries Policy reform offers a crucial opportunity to demand real change.'

? Click on the video to see a campaign film by Greenpeace.

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