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Fisheries: Sea fisheries

Management: administration of the UK fishing industry

The Government is seeking views on proposals to increase from 36cm to 45cm the minimum landing size (mls) of bass that may be caught in UK Fishery limits by English fishing vessels wherever they may be, and other UK registered fishing vessels when in the English part of UK fishery limits. The consultation also includes a complementary proposal to increase the mesh size in enmeshing nets targeting bass.

This consultation stems from recommendations in Net Benefits to consider the evidence for the re designation of bass as a sport fish. This recommendation is not being taken forward at this time; Defra is looking to increase the size and number of bass available to all fishermen. The consultation papers setting out the proposals, along with a partial Regulatory Impact Assessment and a paper setting out the scientific considerations can be found at

Consultation on a system of Administrative Penalties for fisheries offences

Update 15 September 2006

The summary of responses pdf file(88KB) to the consultation has now been published.

At present Fisheries Departments are working on the detail of the scheme and will be engaging with stakeholders further in the Autumn.

Our aim is to publish a final consultation document, draft SI and regulatory impact assessment by April 2007. This will be sent to those who received the first consultation paper and will also be available on the Defra website.

Further updates will be available here in due course. If you have any questions please contact Eileen Ashamu on 020 7270 8615 or email the admin penalties mailbox, .

Electronic recording and reporting of fishing activity and on means of remote sensing

Fisheries Departments have now received a revised EU proposal on electronic recording and reporting of fishing activities and on means of remote sensing.

There are three clear aspects to the proposal:

  • electronic recording of information required in logbooks, landing declarations and transhipment declarations
  • electronic recording and transhipment of sales notes data by those involved in the sale at auction and purchases of first sale fish
  • use of remote sensing of fishing vessels by member states

Registration of buyers and sellers of fish

Buyers and sellers of first sale fish can now submit sales notes online and use the search register facility.

Annual quotas

The primary aim of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is to ensure rational and sustainable exploitation of fish stocks through conservation and management policies designed to protect resources and reflect the needs of the fishing industry. Structural policies are aimed at improving the balance between catching capacity and available resources by addressing fishing effort. Conservation policies are aimed at regulating the quantities of fish caught, through a system of Total Allowable Catches (TACs) based on scientific advice. These TACs are allocated as quotas to Member States in accordance with fixed keys based on historic fishing rights. Various systems operate in the UK to ensure that these quotas are shared fairly amongst the various components of the UK fishing industry, and also so that fishing activity in the UK is managed such that these quotas are not exceeded.

Quota Management Change Programme

The UK Quota Management Change Programme has been set up by UK Fisheries Departments to deliver improvements in the UK’s quota management system.

More information is available on the Quota Management Change Programme pages.

Producer organisations

Producer Organisations (POs) are established under the CFP to enable groups of fishermen to market the fish they catch. In 1985 POs were given the opportunity to manage allocations of some whitefish stocks subject to TAC restrictions in the North Sea (Area IV) and West of Scotland (Area VI). In 1991 this opportunity was extended to TAC whitefish stocks in the English Channel and Western waters (Area VII). Since 1995, POs wishing to manage quota allocations for whitefish stocks in Areas IV, VI and VII have been required to do so for all such stocks; a similar requirement for pelagic stocks was introduced in 1999. Allowing POs to take on this management responsibility enables them to plan their uptake of their particular allocations to optimise the benefit to their members. In 2001 there were 20 POs in the UK.

Allocation of quotas to the fishing industry

Fixed quota allocations formally came into operation in January 1999. For details of implementation rules, see MAFF letter of 11 June 1998 pdf file (40 KB). They are the mechanism by which the UK's quotas are divided annually between producer organisations, the non-sector and the under 10-metre fleet. Quotas are allocated in proportion to the number of FQA units held by the vessels in membership of each group on 1 January of each quota year. These units, with one or two exceptions, reflect the catches made by fishing vessels during the reference period 1994 to 1996. For vessels over 10 metres the units are linked to individual vessel licences and normally move with the licence when it is transferred or aggregated onto another vessel. For vessels under 10 metres there is a single block of units based on the aggregated activity of that part of the fleet during the 1994 to 1996 reference period.

The objectives underlying the introduction of FQAs were:

  1. greater year on year stability in managing quotas
  2. less pressure on fishermen and POs to maintain their track records by utilising their full quota allocations
  3. a disincentive to "paper" or "ghost" fishing
  4. the ability to swap or gift quota without suffering a reduction in future quota allocations
  5. facilitating investment in the fleet by ensuring track records could be retained whilst vessels were being replaced or modernised
  6. the more rapid issue of quota allocations.

Alongside the process of decommissioning and the transfer of FQA units from decommissioned vessels, Ministers have decided that the owners of all vessels over 10 metres in PO membership should have the opportunity of adjusting the holdings of FQA units associated with their licences to take account of permanent transfers of quota that may have occurred over the last 3 years up to a cut-off point of 8 October 2001. Such adjustments will need to be self-balancing and will be open to all over 10 metre vessels in PO membership.

The detailed rules that apply for the allocation of quotas are reviewed by UK Fisheries Departments each year each year through a consultation process with the UK fishing industry. Click here for the rules for 2002.

Allocation of additional North Sea and West of Scotland Nephrops Quota

Fisheries Administrations have reached a decision regarding the allocation of additional North Sea and West of Scotland quota. Further details on the two options for allocation of additional quota can be found in Consultation letter pdf file(44 KB) and details of the decision reached by Fisheries Administrations can be found in Decision on additional nephrops allocation pdf file(22 KB). A summary of the responses can be found in the Summary of responses to consultation document.pdf file (48 KB)

The "ownership" of quota

From time to time the Fisheries Departments are asked to provide clarification about the "ownership" of FQA units and quota. UK fishing quotas are allocated annually at the discretion of Fisheries Ministers, who make the allocation on the basis of the FQA units associated with individual fishing vessel licences. Once allocated, quota is a permission to catch quota stocks that is conferred at the level of the PO or non-sector. In total FQA units represent catches made in the defined reference period and are used solely for allocation purposes. Fishermen do not, therefore, have property rights over FQA units or quota. Nonetheless they are afforded a substantial degree of protection and certainty through the development and operation of the UK's quota management rules and the Ministers' assurance that significant changes will not be made to existing arrangements without full and proper consultation.

For further information see the Marine Fisheries Agency website.

Restrictive licensing system for fishing vessels

This system, also operated by the Government, controls the activities of the UK fishing fleet according to the EU and UK aims on fleet and catch management. All engine-powered UK-registered or British-owned vessels, which fish for profit for sea fish (other than salmon, migratory trout and eels) are required to hold a licence issued by UK Fisheries Departments. In order to keep the fleet the same size, additional licences are not granted. Licences must therefore be transferred and aggregated according to detailed rules. Fishermen with licensing queries should contact their local District Inspector of Fisheries at one of the Marine Fisheries Agency's offices

November 2005: A report by the Joint Industry/Departmental Working Group has been published:

Defra has re-written into plain English the UK Fisheries Administrations' guidance notes on vessel licensing. You can read them at or ask for a copy at an MFA fisheries office.

Marking and identification of passive fishing gear

EC Regulation No 1805/2005 laying down detailed rules on the marking and identifcation of fishing gear comes in to force on 1 January 2006. Detailed guidance notes have been sent to affected vessel owners, an electronic copy can be found here:

Economic link condition

From 1 January 1999 British registered fishing vessels over 10 metres in overall length and landing 2 tonnes or more of quota stocks have had to demonstrate an economic link with fishing communities in this country. The licence condition was introduced to ensure that British coastal communities dependent on fisheries and related industries derived economic benefit from vessels fishing against UK quotas. Its introduction was the subject of extensive consultation with the Commission which confirmed in July 1998 that, in its view, the condition was compatible with Community law.

A vessel owner may demonstrate that his vessel has maintained an economic link with the UK by one of four options:

Option A:
landing at least 50% by weight of the vessel's catch of quota stocks into the UK, or

Option B:
employing a crew of whom at least 50% are normally resident in a UK coastal area, or

Option C:
incurring a significant level of operating expenditure in the UK for goods and services provided in UK coastal areas, or

Option D:
demonstrating an economic link by other means (including combinations of the above) providing sufficient benefit to populations dependent on fisheries and related industries

Vessel owners may also roll over part of their economic link compliance to the following year.

Vessel owners have until 31 July each year to provide evidence of compliance in the previous year. Owners failing to provide that evidence are liable to the withdrawal of their authority to fish for quota stocks and/or prosecution for breach of the licence condition. Reports are published by Fisheries Departments into the fishing industry's compliance with the economic link licence condition each year.

Statistics on quota uptake

The statistics section of the Fisheries web site contains information on historic levels of quota uptake in the UK and in other Member States.

Further information is available on our Help page about downloading or reading Adobe Acrobat PDF logo documents.

  Page last modified: 18 September 2006
Page published: 17 January 2005
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