EU fishermen are to be banned from discarding fish at sea following a landmark vote by MEPs in favour of what is a key reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Sitting in Strasbourg this morning, 502 MEPs voted in favour of strengthening the Common Fisheries Policy and 137 voted against.

The Parliament voted in favour of a raft of proposed reforms but the discards ban has been the most emotive reform proposed by the European Commission and was at the heart of chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Fish Fight campaign to bring about fisheries reform in Europe. His campaign saw 849,724 members of the public throughout Europe support a discards ban.

The Parliament had, with a broad majority, supported an ambitious reform of the CFP by endorsing the approach put forward by the Commission, said EU commissioner for maritime time affairs and fisheries Maria Damanaki.

“I am especially pleased with the Parliament’s support for a policy that is based on exploiting fisheries resources sustainably…a policy that introduces a discard ban with clear dates to put an end to wasteful practices that we can no longer afford.”

Saskia Richartz, EU fisheries policy director at Greenpeace, added that the vote signalled a momentous shift away from overfishing and was a testament to Parliament’s resolve to defend the general interest.

“National governments that stand in the way of reform, like Spain and France, will find it increasingly hard to act as proxies for a handful of powerful companies.”

Other key reforms waved through by Parliament include policies to align the size of the EU fishing fleet with the amount of fish in the sea and to promote small-scale fishing.

The Parliament must now thrash out the detail of the reforms with the Council of Ministers but a discards ban is near-certain because both bodies have formally pledged their support for one as part of the new CFP.

“I don’t see them not agreeing on the discards ban because the direction is the same,” added Richartz.

The Grocer met up with Damanaki for an exclusive interview last year, in which she made the case for CFP reform and a discards ban.