A major step forward has been taken to end the controversial practice of fisherman based in Lowestoft, Southwold and Great Yarmouth discarding their catches back into the North Sea, a government minister has said.

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In January the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is expected to be changed by the European Parliament to eliminate the practice of dumping tonnes of perfectly good fish back into the sea dead in order to meet quota targets.

As part of the on-going reforms to promote sustainable fishing a meeting was held in Luxembourg this week by fisheries ministers from Europe.

The meeting agreed to a provisional change to the CFP by changing the way the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund ( EMFF) operates.

EMFF funding will now be used to support new measures such as paying for more selective catching gear that will contribute to eliminating discards or to fund research projects to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the fishing industry.

Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon said: “I came to Luxembourg determined to ensure that UK fishermen and taxpayers get the best possible deal from these important negotiations.

“I am delighted the council has agreed to allocate the vast majority of the new EU funding stream towards implementing CFP reform.

“The priority for me has always been to make the changes that will be so vital for a reformed CFP a reality, and this outcome signifies a major step towards that vision.

“We are moving ever closer to the goal of being able to create healthy fish stocks, a prosperous fishing industry and a healthy marine environment.”

There are about 18 fishing boats under 10m in length based in Lowestoft, Southwold and Great Yarmouth.

Nationally the nation’s fleet of small fishing vessels only gets 4pc of Britain’s EU fishing quota.

It is estimated that 50pc of all fish caught in the North Sea are thrown back overboard dead because fishermen inadvertently catch more than their quota

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