European politicians have agreed a commitment to ban the "discarding" of usable fish at sea, but were criticised for failing to take strong action to tackle overfishing.
Fisheries ministers meeting to discuss moves to reform the policy which governs all European fishing fleets have agreed there should be an end to discards but no firm date was set for bringing in the ban.
Provisional dates published by the EU council would see discards banned for Pelagic fisheries such as mackerel and herring by January 1 2014.
And a ban on discards in whitefish fisheries such as cod, haddock, plaice and sole would come in on a phased basis starting 12 months later and fully in place by January 1 2018, under the proposals.
Under existing EU rules, fishermen have quotas for certain fish, but can carry on fishing once the limits are reached as long as they do not bring any more of that species to shore.
As a result, tonnes of edible fish which exceed the quota are thrown back to sea as discards, accounting for up to 90% of the total catch in some fisheries - a practice which has prompted public outrage in the UK.
Fisheries minister Richard Benyon said: "After years of pressing to eliminate discards it was always my aim to get the Council to agree to end this wasteful practice as soon as possible.
"While I am disappointed that the Council has not agreed the firm dates that I was seeking, a commitment to eliminating discards is a step in the right direction."
The UK Government, which has been demanding reform of the "broken" Common Fisheries Policy, also claimed victory in winning support for a move away from Brussels micro-management of fisheries to regions having more control.
Ministers also agreed on a move towards long-term plans to manage fisheries, which aims to reduce the annual horse-trading between countries over quotas for how much fish can be caught.
Photo courtesy of FishFight.net