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sea fisheries

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Inshore Fisheries

Gardenstown HarbourScotland’s inshore waters extend from the coast out to 12 nautical miles (nm), with a concentration of fishing taking place within 6 nm.

There are over 2,000 active Scottish fishing vessels and three quarters of them fish primarily in inshore waters. Typically these are smaller boats of 8-10 metres in length with one or two crew members, fishing daily from local ports.

The inshore fleet is diverse and includes trawlers, creelers, netters, dredgers and divers. Hand gatherers may collect cockles from the foreshore. Shellfish is the main target – brown and velvet crab, lobster, scallops and Nephrops (langoustines).

Inshore fishing is mostly conducted by one of two methods:

  • static gear fishing for crabs, lobster and Nephrops by placing baited pots or creels on the sea bed, and
  • mobile gear fishing involving the towing of gear, such as nets for Nephrops or dredges for scallops, behind a vessel.


Although the European Union (EU) is responsible for much of the legislation relating to sea fisheries, the UK has exclusive rights to fish within 6 nm of its coastline. Fishing by non-UK vessels between 6 and 12 nm is restricted to countries with historic rights relating to specific fisheries.

Through devolution, Scottish Ministers are responsible for the regulation of sea fishing around Scotland and within 12 nm of Scotland's coast. The Scottish Government has the ability to take non-discriminatory conservation measures, provided that the EU has not already legislated in this area.

Marine Scotland manages inshore fisheries using a variety of legislation:

Stakeholder Engagement

Marine Scotland regularly hosts the Inshore Fisheries Conference, which brings together the entire industry to provide an opportunity for people to share views and ideas, and to discuss the future management of the inshore fisheries sector for Scotland.

Inshore fisheries management initiatives at a national level are also discussed with industry through the Inshore Fisheries Management and Conservation Group (IFMAC).

Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups (RIFGs) consider local issues raised by fishermen in the 0-6 nm zone of inshore waters. RIFGs aim to improve the management of Scotland’s inshore fisheries, and give commercial inshore fishermen a strong voice in wider marine management developments.

Strategy and Implementation

The Inshore Fisheries Strategy sets out that "Our vision is to support the development of a more sustainable, profitable and well-managed inshore fisheries sector in Scotland. We aim to do this by modernising the management of our inshore fisheries in Scotland and reaping long-term sustainable rewards for the inshore sector, the marine environment and our coastal communities."

The inshore strategy is focused on:

  • improving the evidence base on which fisheries management decisions are made
  • streamlining fisheries governance, and promoting stakeholder participation
  • embedding inshore fisheries management into wider marine planning