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Authorisation to fish in third-country waters

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Authorisation to fish in third-country waters

The European Union (EU) may enter into international agreements on fisheries with non-member countries which provide its vessels with access to fisheries resources outside the Community. To ensure effective and transparent management of Community fishing activities in third-country waters, the granting of fishing permits authorising these activities is coordinated by the European Commission. With this Regulation the Council has adopted general provisions governing the granting of fishing permits to Community vessels operating in third-country waters.


Council Regulation (EC) No 3317/94 of 22 December 1994 laying down general provisions concerning the authorisation of fishing in the waters of a third country under a fisheries agreement.


Under this Regulation, the Council lays down the procedures to be followed by the Commission and the flag Member State to manage the fishing activities of Community vessels in the waters of a non-member country. Where these fishing activities require a fishing licence * from a non-member country, only those Community fishing vessels which hold a current “fisheries-agreement fishing permit” * may fish in those waters.

Granting a fishing permit

The flag Member State grants and manages fishing permits for the vessels under its flag. To obtain a fishing permit, a vessel must first hold a fishing licence under Regulation (EC) No 1281/2005.


The procedure for granting authorisation to fish in the waters of a non-member country comprises several phases:

  • transmission of the application to the Commission: the flag Member State sends the Commission the applications for licences to fish in the waters of the non-member country. The applications must comply with the arrangements in the fisheries agreement with the country in question and with Community rules;
  • examination of applications: the Commission examines the applications from each country in the light of the fishing opportunities it has been granted under Community rules and any conditions in the fisheries agreement; if the application does not comply with these conditions, the Commission informs the Member State concerned that it cannot forward the application to the non-member country;
  • transmission of the application to the non-member country concerned: if the application is eligible, the Commission sends it to the non-member country concerned;
  • information to the applicant country: the Commission informs the flag Member State whether the non-member country has decided to grant the licence or not. In the latter case, the Commission makes the necessary checks in consultation with the flag Member State and the non-member country concerned;
  • granting the fishing permit: the flag Member State grants the fisheries-agreement fishing permit when the vessel has obtained the fishing licence from the non-member country.

Suspension of the fishing licence

If the non-member country decides to suspend or withdraw a fishing licence issued to a vessel flying the flag of a Member State, the Commission immediately notifies that State. The suspension of a fishing licence entails the suspension of the fisheries-agreement fishing permit by the flag Member State for as long as the licence is suspended. If the non-member country definitively withdraws the fishing licence, the flag Member State withdraws the fisheries-agreement fishing permit from the vessel in question.

Competent authorities

The Member States designate the authorities competent to grant the fishing permits and notify the other Member States and the Commission of their name and address.

Key terms used in the act

  • fishing licence: authorisation, under any form, delivered by the non-member country, to carry out fishing activities in its fisheries zone.
  • fisheries-agreement fishing permit: authorisation, under any form, granted to a Community fishing vessel by the flag Member State under a fisheries agreement between the Community and a non-member country, supplementing the fishing licence, which allows that vessel to carry out fishing activities in the fisheries zone of the non-member country.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Council Regulation (EC) No 3317/94



OJ L 350 of 31.12.1994


Proposal of 18 June 2007 for a Council Regulation concerning authorisations for fishing activities of Community fishing vessels outside Community waters and the access of third country vessels to Community waters [COM(2007) 330 final – Not published in the Official Journal]. The proposal is intended to simplify and improve the procedures for managing fishing authorisations. It will help achieve the Common Fisheries Policy objectives of sustainable fisheries and control. Its implementation will reduce the administrative burden on the national administrations and the Commission by introducing clear rules and simple procedures for the management of fishing authorisations. The new proposal aims at better enforcement of the Common Fisheries Policy by introducing eligibility criteria, as well as sanctions for vessels involved in illegal unreported and unregulated fishing. Lastly, it improves the reporting of catches and fishing effort.

Consultation procedure (CNS/2007/0114).

Commission Regulation (EC) No 1281/2005 of 3 August 2005 on the management of fishing licences and the minimal information to be contained therein [Official Journal L 203 of 4.8.2005].

Communication from the Commission of 23 December 2002 on an integrated framework for fisheries partnership agreements with third countries [COM(2002) 637 final – Not published in the Official Journal]. In this communication, the Commission proposes that fisheries agreements with non-member countries should gradually take the form of partnership agreements in order to establish a sustainable fisheries policy.

Last updated: 29.05.2008