* Deal is final stage of package of fisheries reforms
* Environmentalists give cautious welcome
* European Parliament expected to vote in April
BRUSSELS, Jan 29 EU diplomats backed a 6.5
billion euro ($8.9 billion) deal to help fishermen adapt to new
rules, ending years of debate over reforms of the European
Union's fishing policy aimed at ending decades of over-fishing.
The funding agreement covers the years 2014 to 2020 and is
meant to fund equipment, such as new nets that allow smaller
fish to escape, that could help replenish stocks.
Representatives of the European Parliament, the European
Commission and member states agreed the deal in outline late on
Tuesday as the final plank of a set of fisheries reforms that
member states have been debating since 2009.
Diplomats endorsed the deal at a closed door meeting on
Wednesday, EU sources said.
Environmental campaigners said the outcome has positive
elements but is flawed in that measures such as subsidising
temporary halts to fishing would mean just a pause rather than
an end to over-fishing.
The Pew Charitable Trusts said the onus was on member
states, who are expected to give their final endorsement
following a European Parliamentary vote, which is expected
before the end of April and predicted to be a formality.
"It is now up to member states to choose what they allocate
funding to and how ambitious they want to be implementing the
reformed Common Fisheries Policy and ending EU overfishing," Uta
Bellion, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts' European marine
($1 = 0.7319 euros)
(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by Jane Baird)