Irish MEPs were on opposite sides of a controversial vote in the European Parliament tonight in which a proposed ban of bottom-trawling fishing was narrowly defeated.

While Ireland does not have a quota for this practice, in which weighted nets are dragged across the sea floor, as much as 30% of this EU fishing happens in Irish waters.

Ireland North West MEP Marian Harkin said she was very disappointed with the outcome in which the amendment to ban the method was defeated by just 16 votes.

She said the scientific evidence suggested this was damaging the ecosystem and yet the practice was continuing, without any economic benefit to Ireland.

Spanish, French and Scottish vessels are the most significant practitioners of this type of fishing.

However, Pat the Cope Gallagher, also an MEP for Ireland North West, voted against the amendment, which would have resulted in a ban.

He said it was part of a package of measures which had been agreed at the Fisheries Committee following lengthy negotiations and should not be unpicked.

He also argued that there were possible future job opportunities for Irish fishermen and the compromise plan included significant measures to protect ecosystems and conserve stocks.

MEPs did however introduce a review clause requiring the Commission to evaluate the impact of bottom trawling within four years, a process which could yet trigger a total ban.

EU ministers have yet to adopt a position on the plan.

Greenpeace has described bottom trawling as a devastating and indiscriminate practice which should be banned.