By 502 votes to 137, MEPs voted on February 6 “to adopt a common policy on sustainable fishing. That may seem trivial, but it is in reality a historical vote,” announces Libération The goal “is to reduce pressure on fish stocks to levels that can see them renewed by 2020.” This decision, writes La Vanguardia, represents a “shift in course”, especially because from 2014 onwards, discards – which make up 23 per cent of the catches of EU fleets – will be banned and all the fish caught will have to be brought back to port. It continues –

The need to curb the current overfishing and restore depleted fishing grounds and the awareness of the need to reduce the sizes of the fleets, are the pillars of the current shift to promote rational and sustainable fishing [... ] The fisheries policy embraces ethical values to put an end to the unacceptable habit of throwing back into the sea marine life that has no commercial value [...] Till now, the former fisheries policy has only encouraged overfishing of European stocks: 48 per cent of the estimated stocks in the Atlantic Ocean and close to 90 per cent in the Mediterranean Sea are overexploited.

However, notes Le Monde,, the ban on discards did not meet with agreement all round –

Once landed at port, the fish that today are tossed back into the sea can be turned into fishmeal for animals, which itself brings a risk of developing this “accidental” fishing industry, note critics of this new system.

However, by opting for sustainable fishing, Europe, with the third-largest fleet in the world, may be putting itself at a disadvantage against its international competitors, writes Süddeutsche Zeitung in Germany.

It would be naive and presumptuous to believe that its rivals [China and Peru] will follow Europe's noble example. In view of the power of the European fleet, though, much will be gained if the European vessels honour the principles of sustainability when they go fishing in non-European waters.