* EU parliament overwhelmingly backs end to over-fishing
* Irish presidency aims for final deal by end June
* New policy would take effect from next year
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, Feb 6 The European Parliament on
Wednesday overwhelmingly backed reform to end decades of
over-fishing and restore EU sea stocks to healthy levels by
The Common Fisheries Policy, which dates back to the 1970s,
is widely regarded as a failure.
It has allowed subsidised, industrial-sized fleets to
devastate fish stocks, while eurosceptics have scorned it as
The revised policy, to take effect from next year, will
enforce sustainable catch limits - meaning fishermen can catch
no more than a given stock can reproduce in a year.
It will also end the practice of discards: throwing
undersized fish or unwanted species back into the sea, where
they usually die anyway.
While the broad outlines of the new policy are in place,
some details still have to be negotiated.
It will then need final parliamentary approval as well as
endorsement from the European Union's 27 governments including
Britain, which is debating looser ties with the bloc.
Eurosceptics there have called for more regional management
of fish stocks and the right to control access of other European
fishing vessels to British waters. The country's fisheries
minister said on Wednesday the reform still needed work.
EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki said she was
"especially pleased with the parliament's support for a policy
that is based on exploiting fisheries resources sustainably".
Some 80 percent of Mediterranean and 47 percent of Atlantic
stocks are overfished, European Commission figures showed.
German politician Ulrike Rodust, who led the debate in
parliament, said the reform should mean fish stocks recover by
2020, allowing fishermen to harvest an extra 15 million tonnes
and creating 37,000 new jobs.
Campaign groups hailed Wednesday's vote as a breakthrough.
"It's a very easy paradigm. Without fish, there is no
fishing, no jobs - but everyone will have to overcome their
greed. That's the mind shift," said Markus Knigge, adviser at
Pew Environment Group.
"You have to look at fisheries not like a mine, but like a
field. You have to cultivate it, not just take fish out."
There was agreement for "more power at a lower level", but
EU-wide policy was still needed. "This is not just solved by
everyone doing their own job," he said.
Last year, the European Commission said France, Portugal and
Spain were guilty of repeated overfishing, and reduced their
catch quotas as a punishment.
Taking into consideration the wide discrepancies in
different fishing fleets, the proposed law says decisions on
catch limits must involve fishermen and region-wide cooperation.
It also shifts the focus to long-term planning, which could
limit the notorious all-night haggling to agree annual fishing
British Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon welcomed
Wednesday's vote towards reforming "this failed policy".
"This is a crucial step forward in securing radical reform
of the Common Fisheries Policy, but there is still more work to
be done," he said in an emailed statement.
Ireland, as the current holder of the rotating EU
presidency, has said it hopes to get a political deal on the
proposed reform by the end of June.
(Editing by Charlie Dunmore and John Stonestreet)