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Buyers and Sellers Legislation - Does it Apply?

Oct 04,2006 Leon Roskilly

Buyers and Sellers legislation was bought in to provide an audit trail designed to squeeze ‘black fish’ out of the economy.

Any business that acts as a buyer or seller of first-hand sale fish from a vessel must be registered, and documentation has to be provided that is the start of an audit trail that will theoretically allow all fish sold to be traced back to its origin.

Although principally meant to deal with huge landings of ‘black-fish’, the legislation also applies to fish ‘bought at the back door’, by restaurants and pubs etc.

This raises the question as to whether it also applies to rod and line fishermen selling their catch.

So we put the question to DEFRA:


Having read the Explanatory leaflet RBS 2, I am seeking confirmation of the status of those selling and buying fish caught other than from a fishing vessel.
I am thinking principally of those using rod and line and fishing from the shore who then sell their catch directly to pubs restaurants etc 'at the door'.
And so called 'hobby fishermen' who set nets from the shore.
My confusion arises from the definition 'A registered buyer is someone who buys first sale fish direct from a vessel or agent........'
If no vessel is involved in the capture of the fish, does that mean that the buying and selling of the fish is unregulated?
If a restaurant or pub is offered fish for sale at the door, how would they know whether the seller is a rod and line fisherman (as claimed perhaps) or someone who has obtained fish from a vessel.
Or, if someone has been out on an angling charter boat (say) and then sells their catch, the buyer is buying from the angler, not a vessel?
Also, fish is often 'bartered'  ie swapped for a drink or two at the pub etc. How is this covered where no 'sale' actually takes place.
The quantities of fish involved in this trade are quite substantial and do have an effect, particularly on inshore stocks.
Regards - Leon Roskilly
Sea Anglers' Conservation Network (SACN)

ps We regard anyone who sells their catch as a commercial fisherman, whether they are licensed or not, whether they have used a net or a rod and line to capture the fish.
We define a 'Recreational Sea Angler' as someone who fishes purely for recreation, retaining fish for their and their families and friend's own consumption, where no exchange of money or goods takes place.


Subject: Registration of buyers and sellers
Date: 05/07/2005 10:57:36 GMT Daylight Time
From: keith.porter@DEFRA.GSI.GOV.UK

Dear Mr Roskilly,

Thank you for your enquiry about the buyers and sellers scheme. 

The scheme applies only to fish landed from a fishing vessel. 

It does not cover fish caught from the shore. 

The latter activity is not currently regulated and it is not an offence for an angler operating from the shore to sell their catch. 

There are no plans at present to change these arrangements.

There is an offence in the regulations of purchasing fish from an unlicensed fishing vessel which would cover the back door restaurant sales you describe. 

Those making such purchases will be expected to make reasonable enquiries to confirm that the fish has not been landed by an unlicensed fishing vessel. 

However it will be a defence for them to show that they did not know and it was reasonable for them not to suspect, that the fish came from an unlicensed vessel.

It is also an offence for anyone fishing from an unlicensed fishing boat to sell part of the catch.  That includes anglers. 

In such a situation both the angler and the purchaser would be liable to prosecution, subject to the defence for the buyer I describe above.

Finally, with regard to bartering, unless this was systematic and on a large scale with a clear intent to circumvent the regulations I think it would be difficult in law to prove that a sale was taking place. 

My view would be that if no money was changing hands such fish would be covered by the exemption for private consumption.

I hope this helps but if there is anything else you would like to know please get back to me.

Keith Porter
Fisheries Enforcement Policy
Zone 7E
3 - 8 Whitehall Place
London SW1A 2HH

One problem that anglers should be aware of is that the tightening of regulation for quota stocks is likely to put additional pressure on non-quota stocks, many of which are species of particular value to the Recreational Sea Angling Sector. 

The success of the Buyers and Sellers legislation has proven particularly problemmatical for the inshore under 10 metre fleet.

In the past, the under 10 metre boats have not had to declare landings, and although they have quota for some species, this was difficult to keep track off from an enforcement perspective.

However, they have now realised that they could be in trouble should the audit trails generated by the buyers and sellers legislation show that they have been exceeding their quota.

They are now pointing out that the quota that they have been given is not enough for them to remain viable as a business, and that it although it hasn't mattered much in the past as no real check was made, now the shortage of viable quota is going to hit them, so they need a bigger share of the quota.

But the over 10's are unwilling to concede available quota to the under 10s.

The problem for anglers who fish mostly for non-quota species is that some species such as bass, flounder, mullet etc have no quota.

So once an under 10 has reached their monthly quota for cod etc, rather than just carrying on knowing that no one is counting, it is likely that they will switch effort to non-quota species such as bass.

Of course a TAC, and resultant quota for bass would perhaps stop that, but then introducing quota for any species has always lead to institutional overfishing of that species as boats fight for all the quota they get (despite scientific advice) and fish to the limit of the quota given (with inherent discards of undersized fish etc), in an effort to prove a track record so that they are allocated maximum track record on the species in future.


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