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The European Parliament's Committee on Fisheries votes to overhaul the Common Fisheries Policy.

Several key amendments for the Irish fisheries sector tabled by MEP Pat the Cope receive the support of the Committee on Fisheries.

Today in Brussels, the Committee on Fisheries in the European Parliament voted by 13 in favour to 10 against to amend the Common Fisheries Policy.

Ireland's member on the Committee, Pat the Cope Gallagher welcomed today's vote as "a first but significant step taken by the European Parliament to amend the Common Fisheries Policy in its responsibility as a co-legislator with the Council of Ministers."

Mr. Gallagher said today "I am pleased with the majority of the decisions taken today. In particular, I believe that the Committee has adopted a more realistic approach to the problem of discards by supporting my proposal to introduce new measures to help avoid and to minimise the amount of unwanted catches. However, I believe that substantial work is still needed on the issue of discards so as to develop a workable solution for all the stakeholders. These matters will be further negotiated in the context of trialogue negotiations with the Council Presidency."

"I welcome the decision by the Committee to recommend greater regionalisation and localised decision making especially for technical and conservation measures. The one size fits all policy has failed to support the sustainable management of our fishery resources in the past and a new approach to decision making is long overdue".

"I am also pleased by the recommendation of the Committee to provide special support for the small scale sector. It is vitally important that we support small scale, inshore and small island fisheries. I am delighted that my amendment which relates particularly to offshore islands received the backing of the Committee. Small islands like off Donegal are characterised by their dependence on small vessels at the mercy of adverse weather conditions on the Atlantic seaboard. It is a unique, dramatic and harsh aspect of our common European heritage which we lose at our peril."

"I am also very pleased by the decision of the Committee to support my amendment which recommends the introduction of a standardised control and enforcement regime across the EU. It is very hard to understand why a criminal sanction in one Member State is considered as an administrative sanction in another Member State. The introduction of a common sanctions and enforcement regime would significantly help to address key issues surrounding illegal fishing."

"I am also pleased that the committee has voted overwhelmingly to reject the proposed introduction of transferrable fishing concessions and a mandatory system of fishing concessions."

"I am extremely disappointed that my amendment to enshrine the Hague Preferences into the basic regulation was narrowly defeated by two votes. However, I fully intend to re-table this amendment at the plenary session of the European Parliament and I will be seeking the support of all Irish MEPs to lobby their respective European political parties to ensure support."

MEPs on the Committee have recommended the following key changes to the basic regulation of the Common Fisheries Policy:

- A strong commitment to rebuild and to restore fish stocks by 2020 at the latest by the principle of Maximum Sustainable Yield

- The introduction of avoidance and minimisation measures before a landing obligation is in place.

- The removal of the proposal to introduce transferrable fishing concessions and the proposal to introduce mandatory fishing concessions

- Greater regionalisation and localised decision making especially for technical and conservation measures.

- Special support and recognition for small scale, inshore and island fisheries.

- The introduction of a standardised control and enforcement regime throughout the EU.

- The Irish Box which is a Biologically Sensitive Area is extremely important in the management of fish stocks in western waters. The Committee voted to treat it similarly to those sea areas surrounding the Azorses, Madeira and the Canary Islands.

- The Northern Agreements which manage shared stocks will come within the remit of the Common Fisheries Policy according to the Committee's recommendation.

Next Steps:

The Plenary of the European Parliament will debate and vote on the Basic Regulation during the February or March session (TBC) in Strasbourg.

Following the approval of the plenary, trialogue negotiations will commence between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers under the Irish Presidency. Pat the Cope Gallagher MEP will represent the third largest group in the European Parliament, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) during these forthcoming negotiations in 2013.

Contact: Eamonn Farrell at +32 486 708 646