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Landing, unloading, trading and transporting fish

This information is provided by:Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVONetherlands Enterprise Agency, RVONederlandse versie

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
  • fishing vessels

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).

Applying for a licence

You need to have a fishing licence to fish. Which licence you need depends on where you fish, which fish species you catch and the size of your vessel. You will have to pay for most licences. You apply for a fishing licence to the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO, in Dutch).

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 allocated to a fishing vessel. With a contingent (in Dutch) you are allowed to catch a certain amount 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 the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO, in Dutch).

Supplying data

You must supply information on the amount of fish you caught and where you caught the fish.

Are you the master of a fishing vessel smaller than 12 meters (in Dutch)? You must supply this information through the E-lite log for small fishing vessels (E-Lite logboek kleine vissersvaartuigen, in Dutch).

Are you the master of a fishing vessel larger than 12 meters (in Dutch)? You have to file your declaration electronically through the Electronic recording and reporting system (ERS) within 24 hours of landing or unloading your catch.

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 between 1 September and 1 December (in Dutch).

Landing and unloading fish

If you want to land fish in the Netherlands you must give advance notification.

  • is your vessel smaller than 10 metres? You must notify NVWA at least 2 hours before the landing by telephone (0900-03 88).
  • is your vessel larger than 10 metres but smaller than 12 metres? You must notify NVWA by telephone (0900-03 88) at least 4 hours prior to the actual landing
  • is your vessel larger than 12 metres? You must report online via the ERS

After you have landed the fish, you need to ask permission from NVWA by telephone (0900-03 88) to unload the fish.

Landing obligation

A landing obligation applies to 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 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.

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.

Tracking obligation

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

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).

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). Here you can also consult a list of auctions that comply with hygiene and food safety standards (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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