A new release calendar has been launched on GOV.UK. The Publication Hub website will soon be decommissioned.

Skip to content

This topic covers the structure of the UK fishing industry and its operations. Statistics are provided on the size and composition of the fishing industry, fishermen numbers, accidents involving fishing vessels, and fishing effort.


Scottish Sea Fisheries Statistics
Department: Scottish Government
An overview of landings of sea fish; the Scottish fishing fleet; and the number of sea fishermen employed.
The UK Fishing Industry: Landings
Department: Marine Management Organisation
This publication brings together information on the quantity, value, species and area of capture of fish landings. Data are provided for UK vessels landing into the UK and abroad and for foreign vessels landing into the UK.
The UK Fishing Industry: Structure and Activity
Department: Marine Management Organisation
This report brings together information on the size and composition of the UK fishing fleet and its activity. Numbers of fishermen and statistics on accidents involving fishing vessels are included.
UK Sea Fisheries Statistics
Department: Marine Management Organisation
A comprehensive compendium of statistics relating to the UK fishing industry. It includes information on the size of the UK fishing fleet, the number of fishermen and the quantity and value of sea fish landings, imports and exports. Comparisons are made with the fishing industries in Europe and the rest of the world. The level of exploitation and biological status of the main EU quota stocks is also considered.
Uptake of Sea Fish Quotas
Department: Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
The level of catches and landings of key quota species are monitored throughout the year through a series of weekly and monthly spreadsheets.

Back to the top


Fishing vessel statistics are based on the fleet of fishing vessels as registered with the Register of Shipping and Seamen. This is part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is an executive agency of the Department for Transport.

Information from the registry includes vessel:

  • length (overall and registered) 

  • gross tonnage 

  • power

  • age

Statistics on the number of fishermen are drawn from surveys carried out by the Marine Management Organisation in England, the Welsh Assembly Government, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland and Marine Scotland.

Back to the top

Technical Data

UK Fishing Fleet

Statistics on the UK fishing fleet since 1990 have been based on the fleet of fishing vessels as registered with the Register of Shipping and Seamen, part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which is an executive agency of the Department for Transport. Information on the fishing fleets of the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey are supplied by the respective registering authorities.

Gross Tonnage

Statistics on the size of the UK fishing fleet are complicated by the fact that the EU has been progressively altering the methodology used to determine vessel tonnage for the fishing fleet. It has moved from adherence to various national and international standards (previously collectively called GRT) to a common standard based on the International Tonnage Convention 1969 (ITC69) and known as Gross Tonnage (GT). A phased programme of remeasurement was introduced in the UK in 1996 and was completed by the early part of 2004.


Licensing of fishing vessels first applied in 1977 and covered only fishing vessels over 40ft (12.14m) in certain fisheries. Following the adoption of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy, the UK designated a number of fish stocks as pressure stocks and introduced a restrictive licensing scheme for vessels fishing those stocks. The licensing regime initially only covered vessels over 10m registered length, but its coverage has been progressively extended over the years. In February 1990, the licensing regime was extended to vessels of over 10m overall length, fishing for quota stocks. Later the same year, restrictive licensing was extended to cover all fishing by vessels over 10m overall length with the exception of those fishing for salmon and migratory trout, which were covered by a separate regime. From May 1993, licensing was extended to vessels of 10m and under, overall length.

Changes in Methodology

Statistics on the UK fishing fleet in the 2007 edition of UK Sea Fisheries Statistics are still based on the fleet of fishing vessels as registered with the Register of Shipping and Seamen. However, the breakdown of the UK fleet in this edition has changed. Previously, totals were calculated for Scotland along with an aggregate for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Now the UK fleet is broken down by individual countries based on the administration ports where vessels were licensed as at the end of 2007. Vessels that are registered but unlicensed at this time are deemed to be inactive and are not counted against any country.

All tables presented in this publication are available on the MFA website. Supplementary tables showing further detail can also be found on this publication’s website.

Back to the top


  • Demersal

    The term demersal fish covers species living on or near the sea bed.

  • Fishing capacity

    Fishing capacity is the physical dimension of fishing vessels measured in gross tonnage (GT) (see GT).

  • Fishing effort

    Fishing effort is a measure of the fishing activity of vessels based on fishing capacity and the time spent fishing. It may be expressed, for example, in tonnage days or kW days.

  • Fixed gears

    Fixed gears are mainly used for demersal species. They are normally vertically hung curtains of netting which enmesh or entangle the fish, fixed to the seabed with anchors or weights and held upright with floats.

  • GRT

    GRT (Gross Registered Tonnage) is a general term applied to a range of volumetric measures of vessel capacity.

  • GT

    GT (Gross Tonnage) is a volumetric measurement of vessel capacity under the rules of the ITC69 (International Tonnage Convention).

  • Pelagic

    The term pelagic fish covers species found mainly in shoals in midwater or near the surface of the sea.

  • Seining

    Seining is a method used exclusively for demersal fishing. The net, lighter than for trawling, is set on very long ropes designed to herd or contain the fish for capture in the net. After the fish have been surrounded by the ropes, the net is slowly hauled back to the vessel.

  • Shellfish

    The term shellfish covers all crustaceans and molluscs.

  • Trawling

    Trawling may be used either for bottom-dwelling (demersal) or mid-water (pelagic) species, the net being of a basic funnel-shaped construction and towed behind a vessel or between two vessels (pair trawling).

Back to the top

Contact Details

For statistical enquiries about this topic, please contact:

Statistics and Analysis Team

Email: statistics@marinemanagement.org.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7270 8071

Statistics and Analysis Team Marine Management Organisation Ergon House Horseferry Road London SW1P 2AL

Back to the top