The controversial practice of making fishermen discard millions of tonnes of fish caught over EU quotas could be phased out within years, the Agriculture Minister has said.
The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine said he has got a new mandate from his counterparts to enter final negotiations with the European Parliament on a reformed common fisheries policy (CFP) within weeks.
"The council has recognised the practical challenges of fishermen and the potential socio-economic impacts in coastal communities during the negotiations over the past number of months," said Mr Coveney.
"I believe that the historical package agreed this morning will prepare the way for a European-wide discards ban, facilitate more sustainable fishing levels in addition to appropriate management of fleet capacity and a workable regionalisation policy.
"It will provide the framework for the long-term sustainability of the fish stocks around our shores and the continued economic viability of our fishing fleet and the processors and communities that depend on them."
Trawlers are throwing back tonnes of valuable species either because the fish caught are too young, the boat does not have a quota for certain species and brings them on board as by-catch or the catch cannot legally be sold. Irish fishermen previously warned that a European ban on dumping dead fish at sea is the wrong tactic.
Mr Coveney, who chaired the talks under the Irish presidency of the EU, said the support he received at the Fisheries Council followed very difficult and complex negotiations.
"The package agreed this morning will allow us to rebuild the fish stocks in European waters and will allow for significant quota increases for our fishermen as we phase out the wasteful practice of discarding fish and see the benefits of this change in rebuilding our fish stocks and ensuring a better and more secure future for our fishermen and coastal communities," he added.
He maintained the Irish presidency had prioritised securing CFP reform before the end of its term and three-way talks between the Council, European Parliament and Commission will now continue with the aim of achieving that goal on the basis of this new position drafted by the Council of Ministers.