Prepare your fisheries business for changes from 1 January 2021


Last updated 30 December 2020

The UK has agreed a deal with the EU. This page tells you the new rules from 1 January 2021. It will be updated if anything changes.

Access to waters

As an independent coastal state from January 2021, the UK government will be responsible for managing the UK's territorial waters.

An agreement has been reached between the UK and EU permitting non-UK vessels access to fish in UK waters under certain conditions. The Agreement reflects the UK's departure from the EU's Common Fisheries Policy and new identity as a sovereign independent coastal State with the right to manage the resources in its waters.

Find out more about the deal in the summary explainer.

You can also read the full deal.

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
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 will be issued with a licence by email before 1 January 2021. Make sure SIA has your most up-to-date email address by emailing

Non-UK vessels, including EU or EEA registered vessels, will not be 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, 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).

Access to non UK waters
To fish in non UK waters, UK fishing vessels will need an external waters licence. These will be issued by SIA.

UK vessels over 12 metres in overall length will also need an International Maritime Organization (IMO) number . You will 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 will continue to apply, 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 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.

International Maritime Organisation (IMO) numbers
Fishers in the over 12m fleet must ensure their vessel has an IMO 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.

There are also new requirements for moving fish from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Find out how to:

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.

Exporting fish and fishery products for human consumption to the EU
See how to export or move fish to the EU or NI 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
See how to import fish from the EU from 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 (EMMF) 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 on 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.

First published 24 March 2020