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Statistics about fishing in the UK and beyond

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Where to find information online about fishing activity in UK waters and by UK and EU fishing vessels. Explanation of the rules around foreign ownership of UK fishing vessels. 

EU flag harbour

Following the decision to leave the EU the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has seen an increase in the number of people and organisations asking for statistics about fishing activity in UK and EU waters.

We’re committed to publishing any relevant information we hold on our website. We’ve put together this round-up of the questions we’re commonly asked, and links to where you can already find the relevant information online.

Amount and type of fish caught in UK waters

The annual fisheries statistics published by the MMO include a wide range of information about the structure and activity of the UK fishing fleet. This includes type, amount and value of fish landed, broken down by major ports in the UK.

They also cover the activities of UK vessels overseas (Table 3.15 - landings abroad by UK vessels by country of landing) and vessels from other countries landing into the UK (Table 3.16 - landings into the UK by foreign vessels by vessel nationality).

The statistics for 2016 are due to be published on 28 September 2017.

Fishing activities of EU vessels in UK waters

In 2015, EU vessels caught 683,000 tonnes (£484 million revenue) in UK waters and UK vessels caught 111,000 tonnes (£114 million revenue) in Member States’ waters. Further information is on the MMO website.

This provisional information was also included in the White Paper – The United Kingdom’s exit from, and new partnership with, the European Union.  It will be followed by a more detailed final form statistical release as part of the UK Sea Fisheries Statistics annual publication in September 2017.

Fishing boat UK waters

Employment in the UK fishing industry

Figures on people employed as fishermen in the UK are included in the annual statistics publication (Table 2.6), this also includes historical information.

In 2015 around 10,000 people were employed full-time as fishermen, compared to 39,000 in 1938.

There are around 6,000 UK fishing boats. Further details are in Table 2.3 of the annual statistics.

UK vessels with foreign owners

The MMO is responsible for licensing vessels for commercial fishing activity in England. We implement fisheries policy in England set by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the EU.

We publish a list of all UK licensed vessels on our website. This can be searched by home port.

We do not take owner nationality or residency criteria into account as part of our fisheries management functions. Foreign ownership of fishing vessels has previously been the subject of a judicial review, providing relevant case law.

The Economic Link

From 1 January 1999 all UK registered fishing vessels over 10 metres in overall length and landing 2 tonnes or more of quota stocks have had to demonstrate an economic link with fishing communities in the UK. This licence condition was introduced to ensure that British coastal communities dependent on fisheries and related industries derived economic benefit from vessels fishing against UK quotas.

The Economic Link is not ‘a loophole’ as has been reported.

While not as visible as a landing into a UK port, each will have had to demonstrate a valid link benefit to the UK from its activity in some form to stay registered. They may have demonstrated this link by:

  • Option A: landing at least 50% by weight of the vessel’s catch of quota stocks into the UK
  • Option B: employing a crew of whom at least 50% are normally resident in a UK coastal area
  • Option C: incurring a significant level of operating expenditure in the UK for goods and services provided in UK coastal areas
  • Option D: demonstrating an economic link by other means (including combinations of the above) providing sufficient benefit to populations dependent on fisheries and related industries.

MMO actions relating to vessel ownership

Media which reported on an ‘investigation’ did not check their facts directly with the MMO. The MMO is not carrying out an investigation relating to foreign ownership of UK fishing vessels.

Our fisheries management work includes periodic review of the activities of vessels which take part in the Economic Link scheme.

We also recently wrote to all Fish Producer Organisations to ensure ongoing compliance with regulation (EC) 1379/2013. Fish Producer Organisations were established under the Common Fisheries Policy to enable groups of fishermen to market the fish they catch, and manage their own quota allocations.

The vessel lists published on our website include details of all UK registered fishing vessels and whether they are a member of a PO. Not all fishing vessels are members of POs.

Fish imports and exports

Chapter 4 of our annual fisheries statistics covers trade in fisheries products. The most commonly imported fish from the EU in 2015 was salmon. The most commonly exported fish to EU countries was mackerel.

Other market data may be available from Seafish.

Access by other vessels to UK waters

Historical fishing rights to access UK waters are outlined in a document on the EC website.

historical fisheries statistics

Historical fisheries information

The annual fisheries statistics document dates back to Victorian times. The MMO holds archive statistics with information relating to fishing activity dating back to the 1830s. These are available online.

Need further information? Send us your query by email or contact us on Twitter

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