Sea fisheries

Seafood is Scotland’s second largest export and was worth approximately £6 billion in 2017. We are committed to maintaining the long term sustainability of Scotland’s rich marine fisheries through continued support of  businesses and coastal communities and to increasing the inclusive and sustainable, long-term economic growth of the Scottish fishing industry.


We have:


Fisheries is a devolved matter, and that is appropriate given the significant differences in fisheries across the UK and the need for management arrangements to be tailored to Scottish circumstances. There are areas where a common approach across the UK is desirable and mutually beneficial, but any such approach must be achieved through agreement and where legislative consent from the Scottish Parliament has been given. 

The imposition of a future UK framework would undermine the existing devolved settlement, as well as damage the bespoke management arrangements which have been developed to meet particular Scottish needs and circumstances. A 'one-size-fits-all' approach to fisheries would not be appropriate.

Marine Scotland

Marine Scotland is responsible for controlling the activities of all fishing vessels operating within the Scottish zone, as defined by the Fishery Limits Act 1976 and the Scotland Act 1998. This covers the North Sea and west of Scotland out to 200 nautical miles. It is also responsible for managing and controlling the activities of all Scottish vessels wherever they may fish – including fishing effort and quota.

Marine Scotland works with the UK Government to negotiate fishing opportunities through a suite of international negotiations

Marine Scotland also manages all inshore fisheries within the 12 nautical mile territorial water limit.

The UK / EU Trade and Cooperation allows full reciprocal access to both Parties. This means that all EU-registered fishing vessels can access any part of UK waters, and vice versa with some limited exemptions, including within the 12 mile zone (with certain exceptions for historic fishing rights).


Scotland’s seas make up over 60 percent of the UK’s total waters. Landings by Scottish vessels accounted for 60 per cent of the total value and 62 per cent of the tonnage of all landings by UK vessels in 2019.

Many of the fisheries of importance to Scotland are managed in a joint international context. Marine Scotland is a key contributor to the development of the UK’s fisheries management policies. Marine Scotland these policies in the waters around Scotland and on Scotland's fleet, wherever it fishes.

Marine Scotland is committed to making the various layers of responsibilities – at a Scottish, UK, and international level – work sensibly and effectively to deliver important goals and outcomes in these complex management negotiations.

The reformed CFP (1380/2013) aims for much greater regionalisation, where regional groupings of Member States, with advice from regional Advisory Councils and other stakeholders, are expected to take much greater responsibility in developing the rules and management approaches that govern their fisheries, stepping back from the old fashioned top-down 'one size fits all' approach. Marine Scotland actively participated in both the North Sea and the North West Waters regional groups which cover the waters around Scotland.

At a UK level, Marine Scotland works with a number of others including the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and Seafish.

UK Fisheries Management is co-ordinated in terms of a Concordat that exists between the four UK Fisheries Administrations. The Concordat is an agreement between the UK Administrations that sets out a number of arrangements for UK fisheries management, including which fishing vessels each Administration will license and how UK quotas are allocated to the four UK countries.

We published a revised concordat on UK fisheries management in December 2016. The Government also issued a letter to stakeholders about the new Concordat in December 2016.

The 2016 agreement makes improvements to the 2012 concordat on fisheries management.

We produce statistics on sea fisheries

Older information about landing obligations and discards is in our website archive.

Engaging with others

We work closely with the following groups:

Related items

See also information on:

Archived website

Older information on sea fisheries is in our website archive.

This includes information on previous engagement activities:

Public meetings:

Advisory and working groups:


Bills and legislation

Sea fisheries

The Fishery Limits Act 1976 extends British fishery limits and makes further provision in connection with the regulation of sea fishing.

The Scotland Act 1998 devolved responsibility for fisheries to Scotland.

The Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine (Functions Exercisable in or as Regards Scotland) (Amendment) (EU Exit) (No. 2) Regulations 2019 makes simple changes to domestic legislation to ensure that the Scottish Government and its agencies can continue to control fishing and marine dredging (for the extraction of minerals) in the Scottish zone after EU Exit. This instrument amends the Scotland Act 1998 (Functions Exercisable in or as Regards Scotland) Order 1999 and the Scotland Act 1998 (Modifications of Functions) Order 1999. 

Razor clams

The Razor Clams (Prohibition on Fishing and Landing) (Scotland) Order 2017 prohibits fishing for razor clams in Scottish waters and the landing of razor clams in Scotland except in two specified situations:

  • for scientific investigation authorised by Scottish Ministers
  • for the traditional hand gathering of razor clams from the shore, a person carrying out such harvesting is allowed to take up to 30 razor clams per day

Read more about our scientific trial of elctrofishing for razor clams in our website archive.

Read the supplementary report which outlines developments and data gathered under the trial between 1 February 2020 and 31 January 2021.

Key agreements for 2021

  • Coastal States consultations on key pelagic stocks concluded with agreement on total catch limits, which were set in line with ICES advice.
  • Trilateral talks between the UK, EU and Norway concluded in March 2021, with agreement on the TACs for six jointly managed North Sea stocks. A further trilateral Agreed Record was signed in June, setting out the TAC for sprat in 3a and 4.
  • The first UK/EU bilateral covered a wide range of topics, and concluded with the signing of a Written Record on 11 June.
  • The UK does not have bilateral agreements with the Faroe Islands or Norway in 2021.
  • Fishing opportunities for UK vessels are set out in the UK Quota Determination.

Marine compliance

We have produced a full list of marine compliance legislation


View our main contact page. 

Back to top