Fishing offences: Penalties and inspections

Details of how vessels are inspected and fisheries resources are protected in the UK.

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) enforces UK and European laws that protect fisheries resources. MMO inspects fishing vessels at sea and in port.

If you don’t comply with the law, MMO may take action in line with the MMO’s Compliance and Enforcement Strategy.

Inshore fisheries management

Under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, ten inshore fisheries and conservation authorities (IFCAs) have replaced sea fisheries committees (SFCs).

Each IFCA manages an IFC district that covers part of the English coast that goes out to six nautical miles and its inland boundaries align with those of its constituent local authorities. IFCAs also manage sea fisheries resources in estuaries that fall within their districts.

The 10 IFCAs are:

IFCAs have powers in regards to:

  • boarding and inspecting vessels
  • entering and inspecting premises, dwellings and vehicles
  • inspecting documents

IFCAs have powers to make byelaws to manage sea fisheries resources within their districts and for wider environmental purposes - eg the protection of species and habitats from fishing activity.

Each IFCA governing committee is made up of:

  • one seat each for representatives from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), the Environment Agency and Natural England
  • elected representatives of county and unitary local authorities in the district
  • members who understand the needs and opinions of the local fishing community, and who have knowledge of marine environmental matters

Fishing regulations

The Blue Book is a consolidated version of UK and EU fisheries legislation. The MMO try to maintain The Blue Book with up-to-date legislation but cannot guarantee that it is up to date at all times.


Financial administrative penalties

MMO issues financial administrative penalties as an alternative to criminal prosecution. A penalty must be paid within 28 days to prevent prosecution in court. If a penalty is not paid within 28 days, the matter will go to court.

You have the right to have your offence dealt with in court so not paying the penalty is not an offence.

A written warning or a financial administrative penalty may not always be issued for a first or subsequent offence if MMO believes court proceedings are more suitable.

Repeat offending may result in increased penalties or an automatic referral for prosecution.

Fishing licence points system

European law classifies breaches of fisheries rules into the following serious infringement categories:

  • does not hold a valid licence
  • has no registered flag state
  • fails to use compliant fishing gear
  • breaks conservation and management rules
  • does not properly record and report catches
  • fishes in a closed area
  • fishes for a stock which is subject to a moratorium or for which fishing is prohibited
  • falsifies or conceals its markings, identity or registration
  • conceals, tampers with or disposes of evidence relating to an investigation
  • obstructs an inspection or observation
  • takes on board undersized fish
  • works with fishing vessels identified as having engaged in Illegal, Unreported or

MMO will apply points to the fishing licence if a licence holder of an English-registered vessel is convicted of a serious infringement in a UK court. Offences committed in other member states will also be referred to the vessel’s relevant fisheries administration for the application of points.

Published 11 June 2014