Catching, landing, unloading, trading, and transporting fish

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Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO

Do you own a fishing company or are you a fish trader? In the Netherlands you must comply with a range of rules. There are rules on subjects such as:

  • catching the fish
  • landing and unloading the fish
  • buying, selling and transporting the fish

Professional fishermen in the North Sea will mainly have to deal with European fishing rules. For inland fisheries in Dutch waters, these are mainly national rules. Below you can read about the most important rules.

Mandatory notification

Do you plan to start a fishing company? You have to notify the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA, in Dutch).

Registering a fishing vessel and applying for a licence

If you are going to fish at sea, you must register your fishing vessel with the Dutch Register of Fishing Vessels (NRV). You do so with the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). By registering your vessel, you apply for a fishing licence.

Rules for fishing vessels

Fishing vessels must comply with the rules:

Fish quotas

Every year, the European Union sets the quantity of fish that can be caught according to species. This is known as the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) and is divided into quotas (in Dutch) for the various EU countries.

Is the fish quota exceeded? Then fishing is no longer allowed in specific regions (in Dutch).


A contingent is a part of the quota that is allocated to you. With a contingent (in Dutch) you are allowed to catch a certain quantity of fish (fishing rights). It is linked to your fishing vessel. Do you temporarily not have a vessel? You can set your contingent aside for future use, you can rent it out, transfer it to another vessel of your own, or transfer it to a vessel that belongs to another fishing company. To do so you must make a contingents transaction through RVO (in Dutch).

Supplying data

You must be registered with RVO as the master of a fishing vessel to submit your catch records (in Dutch). That is information on the quantity of fish you caught and where you caught the fish. There are 2 systems for this:

Catching eel

Do you fish for eel in inland waters? You have to report your catch each week to RVO (in Dutch). Do you fish for eel in the sea, coastal waters, or the fisheries zone? You have to report your catch either through the E-lite log for small fishing vessels (in Dutch) or the ERS for larger vessels.

It is strictly forbidden to fish for eel in Dutch waters and to trade in eel between 1 September and 1 December (in Dutch).

Landing and unloading fish

Do you want to land, unload or tranship fish? The List of designated ports (in Dutch) shows the ports, places and times where this is allowed.

Landing obligation

A landing obligation applies to all species subject to a fishing quota. This means that you must land all of the fish you catch, including bycatch. You may not discard any bycatch. This also applies to undersized (below minimum conservation reference size) fish. This is called the landing obligation. There are some exceptions for certain species, for instance if they have a high survivability. You can find current information on exceptions in the Dutch-language Fishery Information Bulletins. Did you catch undersized fish of a species that is not regulated by the landing obligation? You must discard these; you are not allowed to land them.

Landing contingents

Did you catch too much fish of a certain species regulated by the landing obligation? And is your contingent (fishing rights) insufficient because of this catch or bycatch? You must pay landing contingents to RVO (in Dutch) for this fish species.

Buying from a fishing vessel

Do you buy landed fish directly from a fishing vessel and is your yearly turnover less than €200,000? You will have to notify the first purchase of fish to RVO (in Dutch) within 48 hours. You may authorise someone to this for you.

Tracking obligation on sale

If you bring fish onto the EU market, you must ensure the fish is labelled, or accompanied by tracking documentation (in Dutch). An electronic medium such as a bar code is also mandatory. This way the fish is always traceable to source. The tracking obligation applies to all parties active in the fisheries industry, from catch to retail. The information must include data such as:

  • the trade name
  • the production method
  • the area the fish was caught
  • the external identification number and the name of the fishing vessel
  • the identification number of every catch
  • the amount of each fish species
  • the FAO 3-letter identifier for each species
  • the date of the catch or production

Selling from a fishing vessel

Do you sell fish from a fishing vessel? You are only allowed to sell to registered buyers at registered auctions.

Approved fish auctions

The NVWA monitors food safety at fish auctions in the Netherlands. You can find a list of recognised fish auctions (Erkende visafslagen) on their website (in Dutch).

Transporting fish

When you transport fish to auction or other place of sale, you must have a tracking document. For instance a vessel note (vaartuigbriefje) or transport document. If you did not receive a (complete) transport document from the fisherman, you can fill out and use the transport document for fish (in Dutch).


The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (Nederlandse Voedsel- en Warenautoriteit, NVWA) monitors the fisheries industry. If you do not comply with the rules, you may be fined heavily.

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