A vote in the European Parliament to reform the European Union fisheries policy has been welcomed by Scottish fishermen as a "real opportunity" to deliver an effective regional management regime.
MEPs backed the reform plan of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), vowing to restore fish stocks after years of failed conservation measures and to return profitability to fishing communities. The package also offers more control over managing the CFP to regional fishing organisations.
No final deal is done until after a three-way negotiation involving MEPs, EU fisheries ministers and the European Commission, but the fact that the European Parliament has "co-decision" powers over fishing policy means more clout for the measures MEPs and the commission have put on the table.
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said: "The current CFP is widely acknowledged as being badly over-centralised and failing to deliver effective fisheries management.
"We therefore welcome the vote in the European Parliament, which is another step on the way to a new and reformed CFP, but it is important to remember that a final agreement has still to be reached among the European institutions, which is likely to take until at least the middle of the year.
"In particular, we welcome the support for the decentralisation of fisheries management. Rather than a centralised 'one size fits all' policy, we now have a real opportunity to control our fisheries much more effectively on a regional basis where fishermen, government, scientists and other relevant stakeholders can develop effective management regimes.
"However, there is still no real indication yet of the scale of regional control that will be offered and this is still up for negotiation."
Measures approved in the vote in Strasbourg include banning within three years the practice of dumping dead fish back in the sea - a consequence of CFP rules restricting the size of landed catches under a complex system of quotas. MEPs voted for the proposals by 502 votes to 137.
Environmental group WWF described the vote as "ground-breaking progress" for the future of fisheries across Europe and beyond.
Helen McLachlan, fisheries programme manager at WWF UK, said: "This vote reflects the views of the hundreds of thousands of members of the public, industry and fishermen themselves who campaigned to ensure the long-term stability of fish stocks."