The coast guard keeps an eye on the sea

Coast guard

FAQ & Links

  • Can I organize a jetski, powerboat or similar race or competition at sea?

    For watersports activities in group, it is advised to contact the Federal Public Service (FPS) Mobility and Transport to see whether a permit has to be obtained.  

    In case the race has a publicitary or commercial nature, you should ask permission from the Directorate-General (DG) Environment, which supervises the regulation for the protection of the marine environment.

    In case the race does not have a publicitary or commercial nature, it is not necessary to ask permission from DG Environment, but it is still advisable to contact them and see if the outlined route does not cross a special zone for nature preservation zone or bird protection zone .

    Permissions should be requested well in advance.

    DG Environment: Steven Vandenborre - 0032 (0)2/524 96 29 -
    FPS Mobility and Transport:  

  • Can I pick mussels straight off the beach or in the port?

    No, in Belgium this is forbidden by law. Moreover, it is a really bad idea according to research carried out by ILVO, the Institute for Agriculture and Fishery Research. This research shows that eating 'wild' mussels can cause stomach - and bowel infections since they contain a high amount of microbes that can make you ill. Mussels picked off the beach or quay walls also contain more chemical substances than those you buy in the supermarket.

    More information (in Dutch):



  • Can I set sail for the windmill parks on the North Sea?

    It is possible to do so, but keep in mind that a safety distance of 500 metres has been established. No vessel can approach a windmill park closer than 500 metres.

    The only exception are vessels which have been granted entry by the coast guard, such as workboats of the windmill operator, supervising vessels, rescue vessels, etc., which are allowed to sail into the windmill park.

    Should a vessel without permission sail closer to the windmills and not respect the safety distance, this vessel is liable to punishment and can be penalized. Whenever a vessel enters the forbidden area, the coast guard centre is automatically alerted, as well as the shipping police.

  • Can I use gill nets to fish on the beach?

    No, that is forbidden. The flemish government decided on March 13th 2015 that it is no longer admitted to fish making use of gill or tangle nets for recreational fishing along the whole of the Belgian coast.

    Gill nets are long panels of netting that can be set at any depth in the sea. They can measure up to a few dozens of metres in length and consist of strong nylon fibres in which fish become entangled as they swim into the net. However, frequently porpoises also get entangled in such nets. When trapped, they can no longer come up for air and drown.

    That is why in certain coastal municipalities a prohibition on gill nets was already in place, but not everywhere the same rules applied, which could cause some confusion. Now it is forbidden to use gillnets everywhere along the Belgian coast. Sports fishermen can still use fyke nets, trawls or flat nets.

  • Do I always need an immatriculation for pleasure craft?

    An immatriculation is an identity document for pleasure craft that proves that your boat has been added to the pleasure craft registry. That also gives you the right to sail under the Belgian flag. 

    This document is mandatory when sailing in the high seas, foreign waters, the Belgian territorial sea, the coastal harbours, Ghent harbour, the channels Oostende - Brugge, the part of the Ghent-Terneuzen channel under Belgian jurisdiction and the Lower Scheldt.  

    An immatriculation is necessary for pleasure craft with a length from 2,5 metres up to 24 metres. This means that kayaks, gondolas, canoes, pedaloes, surf boards or similar objects that measure less than 2,5 metres are exempted from the need for an immatriculation as are pleasure craft measuring over 24 metres.

    The exemption also applies to pleasure craft used for transporting more than 12 paying passengers or used for fishing at sea with paying passengers on board. In that case you do need to have a certificate of registration. 

  • Does a foreign vessel need a permit to carry out activities in the Belgian part of the North Sea?

    Foreign vessels or companies need to follow a special procedure for obtaining a permit for hydrographic and/or oceanographic activities; this is called a 'diplomatic clearance' or 'dipclear'. For more information: Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, International Transport Policy, Karmelietenstraat 15, 1000 Brussels (

  • Findings at sea must be reported to the governor of West-Flanders. How does this work?

    The governor of West-Flanders is nominated as the receiver of underwater cultural heritage. This means that it is mandatory to report all findings to the governor. The receiver is required to record these findings in an electronic inventory and he has to provide advice concerning whether the finding can be regarded as underwater cultural heritage.

    Go to for more information. The website also allows you to report your findings and to browse the inventory. This project is a collaboration between the governor of West- Flanders, the Flemish Heritage Agency and Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ).

  • Is it allowed to throw a "message in a bottle" into the sea?

    No, it is forbidden to throw waste into the sea, let alone a bottle! 

    It is forbidden to do so on the grounds of the international MARPOl-treaty concerning pollution by shipping. This treaty handles spillages of waste or other materials originating from the normal working of a vessel. Annex V handles waste produced by vessels. 'Waste' includes all food and domestic waste, with the exception of fresh fish and parts thereof resulting out of the normal procedures aboard a vessel. It is forbidden to throw synthetic materials anywhere into the sea.

    Furthermore in this Annex, the North Sea is appointed as a 'special area', which means that a general prohibition to dump waste into the sea applies. Food leftovers can only be disposed of out of the 12-mile zone. National regulation also implements restrictions. To discharge waste or other materials in the sea is forbidden in all sea areas (marine environment law). 'To discharge' means to purposely dispose of waste or other materials into the sea out of a vessel.

    This prohibition does not apply to ash of burnt human remains, non-processed fish, fish waste and additional catches of fishing vessels, dredging waste and inert materials of natural origin (rocks, sand and gravel).
    Moreover, Coastal Regulations also forbid to discharge any polluting substance, liquid or solid into territorial waters. It is furthermore forbidden to leave waste, wrecks, wreckages or similar objects on the public domain and to leave neglected vessels behind in ports.
    (© VLIZ – De Grote Rede)

  • Is the use of red gasoil for pleasure craft allowed?

    No, according to Belgian and European legislation the use of marked gas oil for pleasure craft is forbidden.

  • What can I do and not do if I go fishing on the beach?

    You would like to go fishing on the beach, but you are not sure what is allowed and what not?
    Keep the following rules in mind:
    o flat nets buried in the sand have to have a minimum mesh size of 70mm
    o Prohibition on the use of gill or tangle nets

    Beware: a lot of coastal municipalities have their own local police regulations!

    More questions? Contact our coast guard partner Sea Fisheries Service at

  • What do I need to know before going sailing at sea?

    On the website of FPS Mobility and Transport you can find the vademecum for recreational shipping. It lists everything you should know about permits, necessary documents, places to obtain these documents form and all sorts of useful information and advice.
    Download the vademecum.

     'Guide on the water' is very helpful. It features not only rules and regulations, but also a whole set of clues and recommendations, suppliesd by experienced seafarers. The brochure is the product of a constructive cooperation between the agency for Maritime and Coastal Shipping (Shipping Assistance Division and Coastal Division) the Federal Public Service (FPS) Mobility and Transport, the Maritime and River Police and the non-profit organisation Promotion Inland Navigation.

    Download "Guide on the Water" or get your own copy or the brochure by mailing your request, including your name and address to

  • What kind of fish and how much fish can I catch at sea?


    For questions on fishery at sea or on the beach, surf to, click on to ‘Visserij (Fishery)’, and ‘Veelgestelde vragen (Frequently Asked Questions) or click here.You can also get information at the Sea Fisheries Service, Vrijhavenstraat 5 in Ostend. Call059/43 19 20 or mail to

  • Where can I find information on the necessary documents for my vessel?

    Such questions can best be answered by our coast guard partner Federal Public Service (FPS) Mobility and Transport.
    General phone number FPS Mobility and Transport: +32 (0)2 277 31 11 or mail to 



  • Where can I get a copy of the Notices to Mariners?


    The Notices to Mariners can be found on the website of Flemish Hydrography:, click on to ‘Notices to Mariners', and ‘List’.

    You can order a copy of Notices to Mariners in the post or make an appointment with Coastal Division to come and collect your publications.

  • Why can't I feed seagulls?

    It is not necessary to share your pack of french fries or your portion of fresh shrimp with seagulls. They do have food enough. If they are constantly fed by humans, they will no longer go find food themselves. They will tear garbage bags open which causes the street to be full of litter and which attracts vermin. Rooftops, cars and sidewalks are covered in seagull excrement. Moreover, seagulls are known to come and steal food out of people's hands, which can prove dangerous, especially for small children.

    Did you know that is forbidden by law to feed seagulls? If you go ahead and do it anyway, you risk a heavy fine in most coastal municipalities along the Belgian coast.