Photo credits: MSC/Nathalie Steins (Flickr CC)

Fisheries ministers from around the European Union have agreed to ban the practice of throwing unprofitable, but edible, catches back in the sea.

This extremely wasteful custom has been legal in Europe for the past 40, threatening fish stocks and the survival of some species. Delays and exceptions in implementing the ban are viewed by experts as extremely dangerous, perhaps a case of too little too late for some of the EU’s fish stocks.

Currently, European fishermen can reach their quota for a certain species, but continue fishing for others, as long as they don’t bring more than their quota ashore. This policy results in boats throwing vast numbers of dead fish back into the sea – as much as 90% of the total catch for some fisheries. This is maddening at a time when, according to scientists, 80% of Mediterranean fish stocks are overfished.

From the Guardian:

More than 1m tonnes of healthy fish are annually thrown back dead into the sea by fishermen – due to EU rules, or in order to maximise their profits – and a ban on discarding fish such as mackerel and herring is likely from 2014. However for other very pressurised species such as cod, haddock, plaice and sole, the ban could be phased in from 2015, and not be fully in force until 2018. That, experts say, may be too late to be effective.

Environmental groups are disappointed in the outcome of the meetings, claiming the European Parliament missed an opportunity to create a sustainable fishing policy.

According to AFP the UK and France expressed some satisfaction in the compromise, while the Netherlands and Sweden claimed it failed to protect the oceans. Portugal, Malta and Slovenia thought the agreement too stringent against fisheries.

Read more on the story from icScotland.