The European Parliament recently approved a proposal by the European Commission to reform the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy. The reform is aimed at ending overfishing and restoring Europe’s fish population to sustainable levels by 2020.

Under the revised policy, fish quotas will be based on maximum sustainable yield, a system which requires fishermen to catch no more than a given stock can reproduce in a given year. It also proposes a ban on discarding, the practice in which surplus fish are thrown back into the sea, dead or dying, because they fall outside the permitted quota. To comply with discarding requirements, fleets will have to modify their methods and equipment so they do not exceed the quota.

The proposals would also return some management responsibility to EU member states. In addition to ensuring their fishing vessels comply with the requirements, member states will be prevented from setting quotas that are too high to be sustainable from 2015 onwards. The proposed measures would also require the elimination of excess fishing capacity by removing boats from the fishing fleets and would deny subsidy payments to fisheries which fail to comply, including by failing to provide accurate catch data.

The vote represents the first time the Parliament has used its power as co-legislator in fisheries policy to put a stop to overfishing. It will now enter negotiations with both the Commission and the European Council, a process known as trilogue, in order to reconcile competing proposals put forward by the European institutions.

Ireland, which currently holds the presidency of the Council, has said that it hopes to get political consensus on the proposed reform by the end of June 2013.