The draft law, which was approved by 573 votes to 96 with 21 abstentions, gives fisheries two years before sanctions will take effect for failing to comply. The discards rule was part of a newly reformed Common Fisheries Policy, which meant fisheries would have to land all fish caught during a fishing trip – the intention being to encourage more selective use of fishing equipment to avoid unwanted catches.
Following the vote, rapporteur and Fisheries Committee chair Alain Cadec (EPP, FR) said: "It will be extremely difficult to implement, especially for multi-species and artisanal fisheries. Our common concern is to preserve fisheries resources while maintaining a viable economy. The agreement we have found helps mitigate some of the negative effects of the new rules for fishermen.”
However, Green fisheries spokesperson Linnéa Engström said: "The new rules voted today would totally undercut the ban on discards and essential give unscrupulous fishermen a carte blanche to continue with the wasteful practice. The ink is hardly dry on the EU's much-lauded reform of the Common Fisheries Policy but one of the crucial achievements is already being unpicked. This is a major setback for efforts to make our fishing industry more sustainable.”
The new rule will allow fisheries to discard fish if they consider them to be damaged or diseased.
Engström added: "This undermines the essence of the landing obligation, which was to make fishermen responsible for landing their catch, with a view to incentivising the choice of more selective fishing equipment. Instead fishermen will continue to be allowed to throw fish overboard and thus bypass the obligation.”
A discard ban has already been in force since January 1 2015 for pelagic species, such as herring, sardines and southern bluefin tuna, and seven current EU regulations conflict with the new rules, the European Parliament said, meaning that extra time was needed to adapt.
The ban is set to take place gradually until 2019.
Additionally, the Commission must provide an annual report on landing of unwanted catches, and the requirement to keep undersized fish separately by species was removed, among other provisions.
The EU Council of Ministers must now vote on the draft law, which will then enter the EU Official Journal before becoming law.