Fishing vessel licensing

Who needs a fishing vessel licence?

In order to fish commercially for sea fish using a vessel and to land its catch for profit, a fishing vessel licence is required.

A licensed fishing vessel must be registered on the UK Ship Register (UKSR).

If you are in doubt as to whether you require a fishing vessel licence, please contact your local Marine Scotland Fishery Office.

Fishing vessel rules and applications.

What is a fishing vessel licence?

In Scotland, fishing vessel licences are issued by Marine Scotland, on behalf of Scottish Ministers. Scottish fishing vessel licences are issued to vessels registered in Scotland. A licence specifies conditions which must be adhered to by a vessel owner/master/charterer.

Licences are split into length category – '10 Metres & Under' and 'Over 10 Metres'.

Since 1 July 2017, licences provide a general authority to fish. Prior to that date different categories of licence specified which stocks of fish could be caught.

Licensing Rules

New rules now apply to sea fisheries licensing. If you have a query about the rules that apply to your vessel, or are undertaking licensing transactions, please speak to your local Marine Scotland Fishery Office.

How do you obtain a fishing vessel licence?

No new fishing vessel licences are issued. To obtain a licence for the first time an entitlement has to be secured from a current licence holder. An entitlement is created when a licence is no longer attached to an active fishing vessel (this is commonly referred to as a 'hip pocket' entitlement).

Changing country of administration

Where a vessel (with or without its licence attached) wants to either enter Scottish administration from another UK Fisheries Administration (UKFA), or leave Scotland in order to join another UKFA, a ‘Request to Change Country of Administration Form’ must be submitted and approved before any move takes place. The form can be obtained online or from your local Fishery Office. Applications to change UKFA will be considered in terms of the Concordat on UK Fisheries Management.

Application for a Scientific Research Derogation

Please complete the derogation request form and submit it to the Access to Sea Fisheries team. We aim to make a decision on most applications within 3 weeks, however each application is different and some applications will take longer if we are required to consult other divisions or regulatory bodies.

Examples of activities that require a derogation include:

  • using undersized nets or modified trawls
  • catching and retaining on board undersized fish species
  • catching and landing fish stocks for which a vessel has no quota allocation

Please contact the Marine Management Organisation if you wish to conduct scientific research within English waters.

Marine licensing requirements

Work outlined in the derogation application may require a marine licence. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that they have all relevant licences in place before they start any survey. Information on the application process, together with a list of licensable activities, is available here.

EU points system

In June 2013 Marine Scotland, together with the other UK fisheries administrations, introduced a points scheme for fishing licence holders in accordance with Council Regulation (EU) 1224/2009 (“the Control Regulation”).

This Control Regulation, which applies to serious infringements committed after 01 June 2013, will be applied to fishing licences when there has been a serious infringement of the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).