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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - 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 subsidizing 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 programme said.
($1 = 0.7319 euros)
Reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by Jane Baird