EUROPE - The recent changes to the Common Fisheries Policy including an introduction of a ban on discards has been broadly welcomed across the European Union.
Apart from the ban on discards, the reforms have aimed to produce a fisheries policy providing more sustainable fish stocks.
The Spanish Minister of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Miguel Arias Cañete, said: "The Spanish Government valued the 2015 deadline to achieve maximum sustainable yields of stocks."
The Minister added that the discards agreement was "positive for Spain and that a gradual process, equipped with flexible mechanisms, will allow the fleet to adapt to new rules in a progressive way".
Prior to the recent agreement, Spain has been calling for more flexibility in terms of meeting the discard and MSY. Although the minister said that while the country wanted to be seen as a leader in sustainable fisheries, he felt Spain would face the most challenges, with reduced fishing opportunities.
The Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney said: "I very much welcome the agreement reached, which will support a more secure future for our fishermen. I have worked with our industry at home and with my EU Ministerial colleagues to deliver a progressive and phased approach to ending this unacceptable practice of discarding dead fish. At the same time, the agreement protects the interests of fishermen while promoting a more sustainable approach to managing fish stocks."
Minister Coveney added: "I hope that this new agreement will be welcomed by both the industry and those campaigning for sustainable management of fish stocks."
Italian Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Mario Catania said: "The reform of the Common Fisheries Policy is certainly positive for the Italian fishing industry.
"Almost all of our requirements were included in the new text, which must now be examined in conjunction with Parliament. The system of co-decision, in fact, provides another very important step, in which we plan to further improve reform."
Leading the Fish Fight Campaign, Hugh Fernley Whittingstall described in his blog the announcement of the discard ban as a “massive breakthrough”.
As the discard dates given are only provisional, Mr Fernley Whittingstall said that there is still more to do in order to make sure that what has been agreed is followed through.
"This is an important decision. Even though I would have liked even more extensive steps to protect marine resources and the introduction of discard bans, we have still achieved a lot," he said.
Sandy Luk, biodiversity programme lead at ClientEarth, said: “The Ministers’ commitment to a discard ban is a serious victory for everyone involved in the Fish Fight campaign. So too is a binding commitment to sustainable levels of fishing [Maximum Sustainable Yield] within a definite time period.”
Although many applauded the agreement, others said it did not go far enough and more could have been done to protect marine resources.
German Federal Minister Ilse Aigner agreed that a lot had been achieved but she would have liked to have seen the proposals go further.
There was also disappointment that the council decided to delay the ban on discards as, until it comes into place, it was felt that fish will continue to be wasted and stocks will suffer.
The German minister said she had agreed to the compromise because it will be placed in the European fisheries policy, the groundwork for a fundamental change of course.
She said that European fisheries should be managed according to the principle of maximum continuous yield (MSY) at the latest by 2020.
Minister Aigner welcomed the fact that, contrary to the original proposal from the European Commission, Member States will continue to decide to remain responsible for fisheries management and to decide whether they want to introduce tradable fishing quotas.
"It allows us to continue our proven German system, which ensures the sustainable management of our fishing quotas taking into account the interests of German fishing," she said.
However, Oceana Executive Director, Xavier Pastor, said: "this result is highly disappointing, particularly with regards to the discard ban, although realistically it is the best outcome we could have expected from the Fisheries Council."
He also stated that: "Ministers did not question the need to change fisheries management, they just admitted that they are not ready to do it right now. It is now up to the Parliament to lead and make the necessary and immediate changes required.”
And the Swedish government voted against the reforms as they stood.
"I'm disappointed. I was hoping for a much longer term and sustainable approach to reform. Unfortunately, we are too few, who are pushing for responsible fishing and the short-term arguments won. It's just to complain, but I have not given up the fight. Now the Parliament will have a say and I will continue to drive the sustainable line among my colleagues in Brussels," said the Swedish minister Eskil Erlandsson.
He said the proposals did not go far enough.