Fisheries Business 2021 UK Guidance

As an independent coastal state from January 2021, the UK government will be 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 will be no change to the rights and responsibilities of UK-registered vessels fishing in UK waters. All vessel owners must continue to comply with the law and the conditions of their licence, including current reporting requirements (such as logbooks), the economic link criteria and discard policy.

Access to UK waters

Non-UK vessels, including EU or EEA registered vessels, will not be permitted to fish in UK waters, unless there is an access agreement and the vessels have the appropriate licence.

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

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

EU and non-EU (third country) waters

There will be no automatic access for UK-registered vessels to fish in EU, EEA or third country waters. All forms of fishing gear must be removed before the 1 January 2021. Any fishing activity outside of UK waters will be considered Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU).

The right to transit through the waters of another coastal state will continue to apply, allowing UK vessels to sail through (but not fish in) 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 from 1 January 2021.

Quota allocations and fishing opportunities

International swaps for quota and effort will stop from 1 January 2021. There will be no cross-year swaps.

Western Waters

The current Western Waters effort regime and days at sea effort baselines will continue to apply in UK waters from 1 January 2021.

Licensing arrangements

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and devolved administrations will vary licences to restrict UK fishing vessels to fish in UK waters only. This will take effect from 1 January 2021.

If an agreement on access is reached, UK vessels will need a licence to fish in other countries’ waters. This will be issued by the newly established Single Issuing Authority (SIA), set up by the UK Fisheries Authorities. The SIA will also license foreign vessels to fish in UK waters, if access is agreed.

Fishers in the over 12m fleet must ensure their vessel has an IMO (International Maritime Organisation) number to fish outside of UK waters.

Access to EU ports

UK vessels will no longer 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 will no longer 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 after 1 January 2021.

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 continue fishing in the convention area, and landing into the EU, you must hold a current UK domestic licence. You’ll 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’ll 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

There are some actions you’ll need to take if you import or export products between the UK and EU.

Find out how to move goods into, out of, or through Northern Ireland from 1 January 2021

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 do not import and export products directly, check that any agent or business you use is prepared.

Preparing for changes to import tariffs

The UK will implement a temporary tariff regime from 1 January 2021. This will apply for up to 12 months while a full consultation, and review on a permanent approach, is undertaken.

Under the temporary tariff regime the majority of UK imports will be tariff-free.

Exporting fish and fishery products for human consumption to the EU

To export wild-caught marine fish or fishery products to the EU from 1 January 2021, you’ll need:

You may also need a:

  • prior notification form
  • pre-landing declaration
  • storage document
  • processing statement

The EU uses these documents to monitor fishing activity and to detect illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Read the guide on exporting and importing fish from 1 January 2021.

Direct landings

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

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

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

The discard ban will remain the same.

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 will 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

For EU imports, you’ll need a catch certificate for each:

  • consignment
  • direct landing of fish or fishery products

Your exporter will have to submit the certificate to the Port Health Authorities or relevant fisheries authority. For freight, your importer will have to submit the relevant IUU documents to the port health authority of import. The IUU documents will need submitting prior to arrival.

If the fish you’re importing has been stored, you’ll need a storage document.

If it’s been processed, you’ll need a processing statement from the exporter.

You’ll need an Export Health Certificate for imports of fish that originate outside of the EU. You will not need an Export Health Certificate for imports of fish or fish products from the EU after 1 January 2021.

Eels and eel products

The UK will not be able to 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 approved before 31 December 2020 will be fully funded.

Labelling and marketing of fishery and aquaculture

The rules for what you must show on food labels will change for some food and drink products from 1 January 2021. Some of the new rules will come into effect from exit day. For others, you’ll have longer to update your food labels.

The labelling requirements for fishery and aquaculture products continue to apply.

Food labelling changes from 1 January 2021 explains how labelling will be affected.

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 from 1 January 2021.

Employing seasonal workers

You’ll still be able to employ seasonal workers from the EU. European Temporary Leave to Remain will allow EEA citizens arriving in the UK from 1 January 2021 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 1 March 2019
Last updated 21 October 2019