Get a fishing vessel licence: over 10 metres and mussel seed

How to apply for a commercial fishing licence for vessels over 10 metres and mussel seed licences.

1. Overview

You need a fishing vessel licence if you want to catch and sell sea fish, unless you’re exempt. If you fish without a licence or don’t comply with your licence conditions, you may be prosecuted. All owners are jointly liable for any offences committed by the vessel.

There are 3 main licence types:

  • Category A for stocks are those at greatest risk and have quotas
  • Category B for stocks less at less risk than category A stocks, but still have quotas
  • Category C for stocks not considered to be at immediate risk, and don’t generally have quotas

To protect fish stocks no new licences are created and there are a limited number of licences in circulation. The only way you can get a licence is by transferring an existing one to your vessel. You need a licence entitlement to do this.

When you’ve got the right entitlement for your vessel, you can convert it into a licence.

Your vessel must be registered before you can get a licence.

2. Exemptions

If any of the following points are true, you don’t need a licence. If your vessel is only used:

  • to fish for common eels, salmon or migratory trout – you do need a rod licence
  • within the 12 nautical mile limits around Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man – you may need a licence from the suitable authority
  • to fish for pleasure

3. Register your vessel

You must register your vessel on the UK Ship Registry to get a fishing vessel licence, unless your vessel is registered in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

To get on the register:

You can choose simple or full registration. Full registration lets you take out a marine mortgage against your vessel.

Registration fees

Simple registration is £159 and full registration is £196.

Documents you need

If your vessel is between 10 and 15 metres overall length, you must include:

  • Declaration of Eligibility (MSF 4728)
  • original ownership documents – bill of sale, invoice or builder’s certificate
  • Safety Certificate issued by MCA (MSF 1606)
  • Seafish Construction Certificate if your vessel was built after July 2007 or a Seafish Inspection Report if your vessel was built before 2007
  • the vessel’s radio call sign, if you have one
  • deletion certificate if the vessel was previously registered on another register
  • a copy of the Certificate of Incorporation if the owner is a limited company

If your vessel is over 15 metres, you must include all of the above (except the Seafish Inspection Report for vessels built before 2007) and:

  • a UK fishing vessel certificate issued by MCA
  • an ITC69 issued by a classification society recognised by the MCA

Your evidence of ownership must cover the last 3 years if you’re applying for full registration.

4. Get a licence entitlement

You can get an entitlement by buying:

  • the entitlement from a vessel that has sunk, been scrapped or is no longer being used for fishing
  • a vessel with a licence

You need to make sure the entitlement is suitable for:

  • a vessel over 10 metres
  • the tonnage of your vessel and the size of the engine (kilowattage)

You can combine 2 or more entitlements if 1 is not enough to cover your vessel. You can also split an entitlement if you don’t need it all.

Register an entitlement bought without a vessel

Fill in sections A and B of application form AFL7 and send it to your local Marine Management Organisation (MMO) office.

MMO will check the previous owner has agreed to the transfer and return the form to you.

Entitlements bought with a vessel

The seller will transfer the entitlement into your name as part of the sale. MMO will send you form AFL7.

Use form AFL7 to convert your entitlement into a licence.

5. Apply for your licence

Fill in application form AFL2 to apply for a licence and send it to your local MMO office with your:

  • certificate of registry for the vessel
  • form AFL7 showing you as the entitlement holder

Send the original documents, not copies.

You may need to demonstrate an economic link between the vessel and the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man to make landings at certain ports within designated times. For more information please contact your local MMO office.

Your vessel licence covers Western Europe – see If you want to fish in other, external waters you should contact your local MMO office.

Renew your licence

Your licence will be renewed automatically.

You must apply for a mussel seed licence every year.

6.Mussel seed licences

You will only qualify for a licence to collect mussel seed if you are registered as a shellfish farmer with either the MMO or the Welsh Government.

Your application must be for a registered vessel designed to dredge seed mussel.

How to apply for a mussel seed licence

You have to apply using application form MUS1 to your local MMO office.

MMO will get advice from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Natural England and the local inshore fisheries and conservation authority (IFCA) to make sure the dredging is compatible with wider environmental considerations.

You will only be able to collect mussel seed from the area and in the time period specified in the licence.

You will not be permitted to fish for or take shellfish or sea fish for sale. This licence only authorises the holder to collect mussel seed for use in a registered agriculture production business and no other area.

Your mussel seed licence will be invalid if you have, or get, a valid UK fishing vessel licence for the vessel.

Mussel seed licence conditions

The licence cannot be transferred and is only renewed if you apply. The licence doesn’t give any entitlement to any licence or authorisation under current or future licensing arrangements.

The licence may be varied, suspended or withdrawn at any time.

You must still get other permits or consents, if needed, like from the IFCAs. You must also comply with shellfish hygiene rules.

Contact information

Fisheries Management Team

0191 376 2597

Published 10 June 2014
Last updated 6 December 2018 + show all updates
  1. Prices changed

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