MEPs will today vote on the biggest shake-up in the history of the EU's fisheries policy – which could boost jobs in the industry by one-third.
Efforts to rewrite the controversial Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) will come to a head as MEPs get the chance to force change on ministers accused of years of failure to get to grips with excess fishing and dwindling supplies.
On the eve of the vote, EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki told a European Parliament debate in Strasbourg: "We have to change the policy to stop over-fishing. We have a chance to create a decent living (for fishermen)."
Ms Damanaki, who once described the CFP as "broken", went on: "If we go through with this deal, by 2020 we are going to increase the fish in our seas by 15 million tonnes and the fish landed by our fishermen by half a million tonnes. We will also increase incomes by 2022 by 25% and create 30% more jobs."
The plans on the table include an end to the ridiculed practice of "discards" – throwing dead fish back into the sea – because of strict CFP rules on the size of landed catches.
She said: "We can't justify discarding any more. We can't explain to anybody that we have to throw away 23% – this is the average – of the fish we catch."
Sir Graham Watson, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South West England and Gibraltar, said: "These reforms will end the moral disgrace of discards, which allow millions of tons of edible fish to be thrown overboard each year.
"They will also put an end to unnecessary micromanagement from Brussels, allowing day-to-day management to be undertaken by those who understand local conditions.
"Most importantly, they will help to restore Europe's fish population and recreate the abundance that once existed."