EU fisheries ministers have reached agreement on banning the practice of discards.

Trawlers currently throw fish overboard because they have either exceeded their quota or the species is not in their allowable catch.

Minister for the Marine Simon Coveney, who chaired the meeting, described the outcome as "a very good result".

The deal came following 21 hours of negotiations in Brussels.

The discard ban will be phased-in from January of next year and will initially begin with pelagic stocks or surface fish.

This will be extended to main fish stocks in the North Sea and the North and South Western waters from January 2016.

It will then apply to all other EU waters in January 2017.

The aim is to minimise the catching of juvenile fish and unwanted species.

More selective fishing gear will be introduced with a new fund available to help fishermen to adjust to the obligation of landing what they catch.

Mr Coveney said the decision was very important and a clear expression of the will of ministers to consign to history the current discard practices.

However, discards of up to 7% will be allowed to continue after 2017, which prompted Sweden to refuse to endorse the final text.

The compromise deal will go ahead, because only a qualified majority of member states was required rather than unanimity.

Under the Irish EU Presidency, talks will now be held with the European Parliament and European Commission with a view to finalising the policy by June.