Unlicensed (hobby) fishermen

Information and regulations governing unlicensed or 'hobby' fishermen.

Daily catch limits for unlicensed/hobby fishermen

New regulations, effective from 17 April 2017, restrict the numbers of certain shellfish species that can be taken by unlicensed fishing boats on a daily basis.

The Shellfish (Restrictions on Taking by Unlicensed Fishing Boats) (Scotland) Order 2017 sets daily restrictions on taking by unlicensed boats as:


Daily catch limit

(per vessel)

Crab (any species)

Fishing vessels that are registered in the UK (with the Register of Shipping and Seamen in Cardiff) are only allowed to fish if they have the necessary licence to do so, and a fishing vessel licence is required to land catches of sea fish for profit.

No licence is required by ordinary members of the public who intend to catch a small number of fish for their own consumption, but they are not permitted to sell anything they catch for profit.

There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that there is a significant issue of hobby/unlicensed fishermen illegally selling their catch on a commercial basis. By its very nature this is difficult to measure, however, it would appear there are particular hotspots around the coast and increased activity during spring/summer months.

Marine Scotland recognises the detrimental effect hobby/unlicensed fishermen are having on the commercial fishermen who comply with relevant regulations. Whilst no one is attempting to prevent genuine hobby fishermen from catching ‘one for the pot’, there is a strong desire to target unlicensed fishermen fishing commercially under the guise of conducting a hobby.


The Inshore Fisheries Management and Conservation Group (IFMAC) established a short-life working group which made recommendations as to how the incidence of unlicensed fishermen selling their catch on a commercial basis could be reduced.

Marine Scotland proceeded to consult in 2015 on measures for hobby/unlicensed fishermen in Scottish inshore waters, based on these recommendations. The outcome report was published in January 2016.

Marine Scotland sought additional views during 2016 on proposed catch limits, and our response is available to download below.

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