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.
- responsibility for managing fishing vessels through the creation of policy and rules about fisheries management
- responsibility for managing inshore fisheries
- published fishing vessel landing obligation guidance for 2020
- published Scottish fish quota management rules 2021 - interim. These interim quota management rules will be in place until in 2021 following a decision on the allocation process for Additional Quota in 2021.
- published UK fish quota management rules for 2020
- publish fishing vessel licence variations weekly
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 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 in negotiating fishing opportunities through the European Union and in other international negotiations.
Marine Scotland also manages all inshore fisheries within the 12 nautical mile territorial water limit.
Currently the EU Common Fisheries Policy operates on a principle of equal access meaning that all EU-registered fishing vessels can access any part of EU waters, with some limited exemptions including within the 12 mile zone (with certain exceptions for historic fishing rights).
Within the EU, Scotland’s seas are the fourth largest of core European waters and these seas make up over 60 percent of the UK’s total European waters. Scotland accounts for 80% by weight of the total UK landings of key stocks (88% by value).
Many of the fisheries of importance to Scotland are managed in a joint international context, mostly through the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Marine Scotland is a key contributor to the development of Europe's fisheries management policies and implements them 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 UK, EU 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.
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.
The 2016 agreement makes improvements to the 2012 concordat on fisheries management.
Older information about landing obligations and discards is in our website archive.
Engaging with others
We work closely with the following groups:
- Fisheries Management and Conservation Group (FMAC) (off-shore fisheries)
- Scottish Regional Inshore Fisheries Group (SRIFG)
- Inshore Fisheries Management and Conservation Group (IFMAC)
See also information on:
Older gov.scot information on sea fisheries is in our website archive.
This includes information on previous engagement activities:
- Regional Assemblies (website archive)
- Quayside Conversations (website archive)
- Fishing Focus (website archive)
Advisory and working groups:
- Fisheries Management and Conservation Group (FMAC) (website archive)
- The Scottish Discard Steering Group (website archive)
- Inshore Fisheries Conference (website archive)
Bills and legislation
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.
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
The legislation has helped to combat historical illegal practices in the commercial razor clam fishery. It has removed the complexities of enforcing the EU prohibition on electrofishing, where Fishery Officers and Marine Protection Vessels had to catch vessels ‘in the act’ with gear deployed.
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 2019 and 31 January 2020.
We have produced a full list of marine compliance legislation.
View our main contact page.