Protected species: fish

Certain species of fish found in Scottish waters are protected, because they’re either rare or vulnerable to certain activities.

Full protection under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) is given to the:

  • basking shark
  • vendace
  • powan

Allis shad and twaite shad receive partial protection under Schedule 5, which regulates how they can be killed or taken.

Other species are listed on Schedule 3 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended).

Schedule 3 fish species:

  • river lamprey
  • Atlantic salmon – protected in freshwater only
  • allis shad
  • twaite shad
  • vendace
  • powan

The sturgeon, a rare visitor to Scotland, is a European protected species.

Read about Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Schedules 5 and 6

Read about the Habitats Regulations 1994 Schedule 3 – animals listed on Annex V of the Habitats and Species Directive whose natural range includes Great Britain

You can see our summary of offences in relation to these protected species below. For the definitive list of offences, you should consult the actual legislation.

Discover more about fish found in Scottish waters.

Offences: protected fish

For fully protected Schedule 5 species, it’s an offence to:

  • intentionally or recklessly kill, injure or take fish
  • possess or sell fish
  • intentionally or recklessly disturb or harass fish

Allis shad and twaite shad are protected under Schedule 5 only in terms of regulating how they can be killed or taken.

For Schedule 3 species, it’s an offence to use certain methods to catch or take fish in freshwater.


Licensing allows named individuals to carry out actions that could otherwise constitute an offence. If you’re planning any activities that could affect protected fish, you must make sure you stay within the law.

Find out about fish and licensing.

Learn more about licensing.

Find out more

Protected species known to occur naturally in Scotland and their protection


If you already have a licence number, include it in the subject line of your email, or have it to hand when you call.

Licensing Team

01463 725364

[email protected]

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