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The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is responsible for issuing dispensations from national domestic and European marine fisheries legislation to licensed fishing vessels for the purposes of genuine scientific research in English waters.

For research in other UK waters, dispensations will be issued by Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Northern Ireland, Marine Scotland and Welsh Government.

Please complete the Dispensation request form (PDF 171 KB) providing as much detail as possible if you think you require a dispensation.

You must submit the form at least four weeks' before the start of a research programme to allow the MMO to process your request.

You should consider the following before completing the request form.

Activities that require a dispensation

There are a number of activities that require a dispensation. Examples include;

  • conducting fish surveys using undersized nets
  • catching and retaining on board undersized fish species
  • being exempt from days at sea requirements or quota restrictions
  • enabling the use of modified trawls
  • landing fish in excess of catch limits prescribed in the fishing licence
  • allowing the retention and landing of fish for which the vessel has no quota allocation
  • fishing in waters where catch limitations are required

This is not an exhaustive list and applicants must specify those regulations that are applicable to their project.

A licensed fishing vessel

If your scientific research is not being carried out on a licensed fishing vessel you may not require a dispensation. However, the MMO does need to be aware of your activity so please contact us to confirm your activities.

Local byelaws

You may also require consent or approval from other regulating authorities. This will need to be granted before you are able to carry out the work that the dispensation applies to.

Local byelaws are the responsibility of the local inshore fisheries and conservation authority (IFCA). You should familiarise yourself with the IFCA byelaws in your research area and contact your local IFCA if necessary.

Effort monitoring schemes

In order to monitor the number of days at sea used during scientific research we now require you to let us know if there are any effort management schemes you require dispensation from, including Cod Recovery Zone, Sole Recovery Zone and Western Waters. You will need to provide the scheme, gear types, sea areas, the number of days and engine size (in kilowatts).

High-risk European marine sites

There are several high-risk sites that have additional restrictions on a vessel's activities.

You should familiarise yourself with these sites before completing the dispensation request form, which now includes a section on these sites. If your activities are going to impact on these areas please provide the details and coordinates.

Inshore sites are from 0 to 6 nautical miles (unless stated). Offshore sites are from 12 to 200 nautical miles.         

High risk European marine sites
MMO marine area Type of site Name of site
Northern (east) Inshore Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast
Eastern Inshore Flamborough Head
Eastern Inshore and offshore Inner Dowsing, Race Bank and North Ridge
Eastern Inshore The Wash and North Norfolk Coast
Eastern Offshore North Norfolk Sandbanks and Saturn Reef
Eastern Inshore and offshore Haisborough, Hammond and Winterton
South Eastern Inshore Thanet Coast
South Eastern Inshore South Wight Maritime
South Eastern Offshore Wight-Barfleur Reef
South Eastern Inshore Studland to Portland
South Eastern and South Western Inshore Lyme Bay and Torbay
South Western Inshore (0 to 12) Start Point to Plymouth Sound and Eddystone
South Western Inshore Plymouth Sound and Estuaries (Tamar)
South Western Inshore Fal and Helford
South Western Inshore Lizard Point
South Western Inshore (0 to 12) Land's End and Cape Bank
South Western Inshore (0 to 12) Isles of Scilly Complex
South Western Offshore Haig Fras
South Western Inshore Lundy
South Western Inshore Severn Estuary/Môr Hafren
Northern (west) Offshore Croker Carbonate Slabs
Northern (west) Offshore Pisces Reef Complex
Northern (west) Inshore (0 to 12) Shell Flat and Lune Deep
Northern (west) Inshore Morecambe Bay
Northern (west) Inshore Solway Firth

Contact information

If you wish to discuss your project and relevant legislation please contact your local office, or use the contact details below.

Marine Management Organisation
Lancaster House
Hampshire Court
Newcastle upon Tyne

Tel: 0300 123 1032
Fax: 0191 376 2681
Email: dispensationrequests@


Dispensation request form (PDF 171 KB)

This document is in the portable document format (PDF) for downloading. Adobe Acrobat Reader can be freely downloaded from