Fisheries businesses: working after Brexit transition

What you need to do as a fisheries business now the transition period has ended.

Access to waters

The agreement between the UK and EU permits non-UK vessels access to fish in UK waters under certain conditions. The UK is not part of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. It is a sovereign independent coastal state with the right to manage the resources in its waters.

As an independent coastal state, the UK government is responsible for managing the UK’s territorial waters (out to 12 nautical miles) and the Exclusive Economic Zone (out to 200 nautical miles or the median line with other states).

Fishing in UK waters

There are no changes to the rights and responsibilities of UK-registered vessels fishing in UK waters.

All vessel owners must comply with the law and the conditions of their licence, including:

  • current reporting requirements (such as logbooks)
  • the economic link criteria
  • discard policy

Access to UK waters

The UK Single Issuing Authority (SIA) has been set up to issue licences to both UK and non-UK vessels authorising access to UK waters to fish.

All UK-registered fishing vessel owners should have received a licence by email. Make sure SIA has your most up-to-date email address by emailing

Non-UK vessels, including EU or EEA registered vessels, are not permitted to fish in UK waters, unless they have the appropriate licence from SIA.

The London Fisheries Convention, which gives access for specific countries to fish in the UK’s 6 to 12 nautical mile zone, does not apply to the UK.

Non-UK vessels can sail through UK territorial waters under their right of ‘innocent passage’ set out in The United Nations Convention of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Access to non UK waters

To fish in non-UK waters, UK fishing vessels need an external waters licence. These are issued by the SIA.

UK vessels over 12 metres in overall length need an International Maritime Organization (IMO) number. You need to give this to the UK SIA to get an external waters licence.

The right to transit through the waters of another coastal state applies, allowing UK vessels to sail through (but not fish in, unless licensed to do so) EU waters or those of other countries.

Norway and Faroe Islands

The UK government has signed continuity agreements with Norway (on 30 September) and with Faroe Islands (on 15 October) to allow UK fishermen to continue to access and catch fishing quotas in Norwegian and Faroese waters.

Access to EU ports

UK vessels do not have automatic rights to land fish in any EU port unless there is a case of distress or an unexpected event. UK vessels will only be permitted to land their catch in designated North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) ports in the EU.

To land in an EU designated port, vessels must:

Check with the NEAFC to find out how much notice is needed. This will vary depending on the country and if the fish is fresh or frozen.

EU and non-EU (third country) vessels landing into UK ports

Non-UK vessels do not have automatic rights to land in any UK ports unless there is a case of distress or an unexpected event. EU vessels fishing in NEAFC Convention Area and landing into the UK will need to complete a Port State Control 1 form.

Regional fisheries management organisations

The UK will join all relevant regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) as quickly as possible.

The joining process may take up to 6 months so there may be a gap in the UK’s membership. During this time, UK vessels may not be able to fish in international waters covered by RFMOs.

North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) Convention Area

The UK will join the NEAFC.

For UK-registered vessels to fish in the convention area, and land into the EU, you must hold a current UK domestic licence. You need this before you can apply for an international licence from the relevant fisheries authority.

Contact your local fisheries authority office if you want further guidance on fishing internationally. You also need to register with the NEAFC’s electronic Port State Control system and complete the Port State Control forms (PSC1 or PSC2) before landing.

Importing and exporting

Read guidance on:

Preparing for disruption to trade at the UK-EU border

To minimise disruption to your business at border points you should take the following steps:

  1. get a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number so you can continue to import or export goods and apply for authorisations.

  2. decide if you want to hire an import-export agent, or make the declarations yourself.

  3. contact the organisation that moves your goods (for example, a haulage firm) to find out what information they need to make the declarations for your goods, or if you will need to make them yourself.

If you import or export using an agency or other business, check they are prepared.

Preparing for changes to existing trade agreements

Read the guidance UK trade agreements.

Preparing for changes to import tariffs

The UK has applied a UK-specific tariff to imported goods.   Find out more about the UK Global Tariff (UKGT).

Direct landings

Vessel owners or skippers landing fresh fish into EU ports need to complete and submit:

  • a prior notification form
  • a pre-landing declaration
  • a catch certificate

You also need to complete a Port State Control form on the NEAFC website.

You must follow the rules for the discard ban.

Fresh fish landings from vessels which are not approved food establishments will not need an export health certificate.

Special requirements for UK approved fishing vessels

Local Authority approved freezer, reefer or factory vessels that land frozen or processed fish directly into the EU require:

  • a Captain’s Certificate signed by the Captain who is authorised by APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) or DAERA (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs)
  • the fish to be landed into a border control post (BCP) approved for the landed fishery product

Food approved vessels include freezer, reefer and factory vessels. ‘Processing’ includes activities such as wrapping, mincing, freezing and filleting.

Non-food approved registered vessels that land fresh fish directly into the EU at a NEAFC designated port will not require an export health certificate or to pass through a BCP. They will still be subject to any normal official controls within the port. ‘Fresh fish’ may have undergone primary production, which may include de-heading or gutting.

Importing EU-caught fish and fishery products to the UK

Read guidance on Importing or moving fish to the UK.

Eels and eel products

The UK cannot import or export European eel unless following CITES processes.

European Maritime and Fisheries Fund

The UK government has guaranteed that all European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) projects that were approved before 31 December 2020 will be fully funded.

Labelling and marketing of fishery and aquaculture

Follow rules for what you must show on food labels.Read guidance on labelling requirements for fishery and aquaculture products.

Your employees

There are certain schemes and processes you should be aware of if you employ people.

Find out more in Employing EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and their family members.

Employing seasonal workers

You can employ seasonal workers from the EU. European Temporary Leave to Remain will allow EEA citizens arriving in the UK to live, work and study in the UK.

You can use the EU seasonal worker information for employers to give further details to your employees.

Published 31 December 2020