The European Commission has agreed on plans to extend the discard ban to demersal fish such as cod, haddock, sole and plaice caught in the Atlantic.

The Commission on Monday (12 October) adopted draft plans for the North-Western Atlantic waters, where the UK has a direct fisheries management interest, and the South-Western Atlantic waters.

Coming into force in January 2016 for a maximum period of three years, the plans are temporary measures to phase out discarding and gradually introduce the Landing Obligation, a key component of the EU’s reformed Common Fisheries Policy.

They determine which demersal fisheries in the Atlantic will be subject to the landing obligation, while also setting out certain exemptions - including ‘de minimis’ exemptions, which allow crews to discard a small percentage of catch in fisheries where selectivity is difficult or handling costs are high, and ‘survivability exemptions’, which allow discards of species that have a high chance of surviving if thrown back into the sea.

Under the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, EU fishermen will eventually be required to land all fish they catch. The ban is being phased in gradually between 2015 and 2019.

The Commission adopted discard plans for pelagic and industrial fisheries in all EU waters and for fisheries for cod in the Baltic in October 2014, with the rules in force since January 2015.

It expects to adopt a discard plan for demersal fisheries in the North Sea later this year.

“These plans are a major step forward as the fisheries concerned are very significant,” said EU commissioner for environment, maritime affairs and fisheries Karmenu Vella.

“Landing what is caught is a start - but more importantly perhaps these plans should lead to more selective fishing, which will help stocks recover and ensure a stable income for our fishermen.”