Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney has said the practice of discarding millions of tonnes of fish which do not comply with the EU fish quota rules should come to an end within six years.

It follows 36 hours of talks - hosted by the Irish presidency of the EU - with member states on far reaching reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Europe's fisheries policy has been dogged by accusations that on the one hand it has badly depleted fish stocks, while on the other the fishing industry itself has become less sustainable.

It has also been seen as too expensive, while the practice of discards has infuriated activists and consumers.

The aim of the reform is to end discards, to prevent the dangerous depletion of fish stocks, and to restore the viability of the industry.

A ban on 93% of discards will take effect immediately, while a full ban should be phased in by 2019.

In exceptional circumstances some boats will be allowed to discard a maximum of 5% of the fish caught.

Fishermen will also have to catch only as much fish as will allow a particular species to remain sustainable.

In Irish waters, fishermen must land pelagic fish involving mackerel and herring by 1 January 2015, while the remainder of trawlers fishing out of Ireland must land all of their catch by January 2016.

Minister Coveney will now have to seek the approval of the European Parliament which has in the past demanded zero discards.

Chief Executive of Killybegs Fishermen's Organisation Sean O'Donoghue has welcomed the agreement.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr O'Donoghue said that he believed that the agreement delivers a workable plan to deal with discards.

Mr O'Donoghue said that out of its five key priorities, between three and four of them were included in this agreement.

He said that the formula reached at EU level will in certain instances allow for a very small amount of fish discards.

However he said that the agreement would reduce discards by up to 90%.