Fish Fight – the campaign launched last year by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall  - is claiming a major victory after MEPs voted in favour of a ban on fish discards and a timetable for its implementation.

25 MEPs who make up the EU Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament met this morning to vote on key Common Fisheries Policy reforms which included a commitment to ending the wasteful practice of discarding fish.  

“There were 5 British MEPs in that room, and they couldn’t ignore the hundreds of thousands of you who asked for an end to discards,” a statement on the Fish Fight website read. It was a great step forward but there was still more work to be done, the statement added. “Early next year will be the plenary vote - this is where all MEPs will vote on the new Common Fisheries Policy. We’ll need another big push then to reach every MEP across Europe.”

The Fish Fight campaign was pushed by Fearnley-Whittingstall in his Hugh’s Fish Fight series, first broadcast on Channel 4 in January 2011.

The news comes as new data released by the EU reveals that UK fish catches have declined by one third in 17 years.

Total UK fish catches stood at 608,500 in 2010, a decline of 33.1% on 1995 levels, according to the 2012 edition of the pocketbook on agriculture, fishery and forestry statistics, issued by Eurostat – the statistical office of the EU.

The decline, whilst significant, is not as acute as the 38.7% decline in catch seen across the EU 27 states over the same period. Only Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Latvia and Lithuania have seen their catches increase.

Fisheries ministers today are gathered in Brussels to negotiate quotas for next year for the North Sea and the Atlantic.