Sea fisheries

Negotiations and total allowable catch

The majority of fish stocks of interest to Scottish fishermen straddle international boundaries, meaning they spend their lives in more than one nation’s waters, and/or international waters. It is therefore key that they are jointly-managed to ensure long term sustainability.

Following departure from the EU on 31 January 2020, the UK is now an independent Coastal State and attends negotiations on this basis. The Scottish Government, as part of the UK delegation, plays a key and active role in ensuring that Scotland’s interests are protected.

Working in partnership with our Coastal State neighbours, we manage shared stocks through a suite of international negotiations. Most stocks are managed via the setting of Total Allowable Catches (TACs), which are defined as the total tonnage of each fish stock that may be removed from the sea each year by those fleets that fish it.

Our negotiating strategy and priorities are influenced by high quality science and take into account wider policy objectives, including socio-economic implications. It is important to work within environmental limits, making sure fish stocks are managed sustainably, in turn providing a resource for future generations and safeguarding the diversity of the ecosystem.

Most TACs are set on an annual basis and are the result of a number of negotiations occurring between different Coastal States. In addition to TACs, sharing arrangements, access to each party’s waters, quota exchanges and other management measures are discussed and agreed through a variety of negotiations including:

  • Coastal States Pelagic: a suite of multi-party talks involving the North East Atlantic Coastal States (Parties which have the stock in question in waters under their national jurisdiction) and Fishing Parties (Parties whose national jurisdiction is adjacent to the NEAFC Regulatory Area, which are not Coastal States, but the vessels of which conduct fishing on that particular stock). The Coastal States and Fishing Parties in the North East Atlantic are the UK, EU, Norway, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Russia. The primary stocks negotiated in this forum are mackerel, Atlanto-Scandian herring, and blue whiting.
  • Trilateral talks: rhese negotiations set the TACs for stocks jointly managed between three parties – UK, EU, Norway
  • bilateral talks: These negotiations set the TACs for stocks jointly managed between two parties. They also aim to establish exchanges of quota and arrangements allowing access to fish in each other’s waters

Fisheries Framework Agreements were signed between the UK, the Faroes and Norway during September 2020. The agreements include principles that demonstrate the shared will of the UK and our Coastal Partners to cooperate as independent Coastal States and seek effective and sustainable management of their fisheries.

As of 31 January 2020, the UK has left the European Union. Fisheries negotiations were delayed in 2020 until the UK and EU had concluded the Trade and Cooperation Agreement  (PDF). 

The UK is also a contracting party to a number of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs). These are international organisations formed by countries with fishing interests in an area. These either manage:

  • all the fish stocks found in a specific area, such as NEAFC and NAFO


  • focus on a particular highly-migratory species, notably tuna, throughout vast geographical areas, such as ICCAT and IOTC
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