Although the European Union (EU) is responsible for much of the legislation relating to sea fisheries, the UK has exclusive rights to fish within six nautical miles (nm) of its coastline. Between six and 12 nm, fishing by non-UK vessels is restricted to those with historic rights relating to specific fisheries and specific countries.
Through devolution, Scottish Ministers are responsible for the regulation of sea fishing around Scotland and within 12 nm of Scotland's coast, the Scottish Government has the ability to take non-discriminatory conservation measures, provided that the EU has not already legislated in this area.
Since 1984, inshore fisheries in Scotland have been regulated primarily through the Inshore Fishing (Scotland) Act 1984. This Act enables Ministers to regulate fishing in inshore waters by prohibiting combinations of the following:
- all fishing for sea fish
- fishing for a specified description of sea fish
- fishing by a specified method
- fishing from a specified description of fishing boat
- fishing from or by means of any vehicle, or any vehicle of a specific description
- fishing by means of a specified description of equipment
- Ministers may also specify the period during which prohibitions apply, and any exceptions to any prohibition