Aquaculture Support

While the planning, licensing and permissions required to establish a new aquaculture operation can appear daunting and have been cited as a hurdle to the expansion of the aquaculture sector in England, one of the fundamental drivers behind the development of this Aquaculture Hub has been to support both new entrants and the existing aquaculture industry in developing the sector in Dorset.

Seafood 2040 states that “The major constraints to industry development are regulation and water quality, and specifically the complex, unclear and challenging licensing process which is a significant barrier to entry and results in very few licence applications for new sites.”

But, don’t worry, there are several organisations who can offer help and advice on a range of subjects from regulation, sustainable development, environmental impacts through to how to obtain insurance. In addition, there are a number of consultancy businesses who can offer support to the aquaculture sector.

Aquaculture Regulatory Toolbox for England

England’s aquaculture industry is currently made up of a diverse range of mostly small and medium sized enterprises that are close to local markets. Farms produce a range of finfish, shellfish and crustaceans in marine, intertidal and freshwater environments. With increasing drivers of food and nutritional security, a growing population and increasing demand for healthy products, the English industry must increase production to meet these needs. The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) has developed guidance on English Aquaculture regulatory issues. This is collated in a Seafish hosted portal to assist businesses and regulators deal with aquaculture applications. This Regulatory Toolbox can also be accessed directly through the Hub.  As Cefas are owners of this guidance there are annual review and update schedules in place. Any comments or questions about the Toolbox and its contents should be directed to Cefas (Source: Seafish).

Regulatory Toolbox

Southern IFCA Duties and Responsibilities

Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) lead, champion and manage a sustainable marine environment and inshore fisheries, by successfully securing the right balance between social, environmental and economic benefits to ensure healthy seas, sustainable fisheries and a viable industry.

Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority manages the coastal fisheries of Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight, while the Devon and Severn Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority manages the coastal fishereies of both northern and southern Devon, including areas of the Severn estuary.

The duties of IFCAs are found in the Marine & Coastal Access Act, 2011.

Principally these duties include;

Management of inshore fisheries
(1) The authority for an IFC district must manage the exploitation of sea fisheries resources in that district.
(2) In performing its duty under subsection (1), the authority for an IFC district must—
(a) seek to ensure that the exploitation of sea fisheries resources is carried out in a sustainable way,
(b) seek to balance the social and economic benefits of exploiting the sea fisheries resources of the district with the need to protect the marine environment from, or promote its recovery from, the effects of such exploitation,
(c) take any other steps which in the authority’s opinion are necessary or expedient for the purpose of making a contribution to the achievement of sustainable development, and
(d) seek to balance the different needs of persons engaged in the exploitation of sea fisheries resources in the district.

In relation to aquaculture “sea fisheries resources” means any animals or plants…. that habitually live in the sea, including those that are cultivated in the sea.

the “exploitation” of sea fisheries resources is a reference to any activity relating to the exploitation of such resources, whether carried out for commercial purposes or otherwise, including—
(a) fishing for, taking, retaining on board, trans-shipping, landing, transporting or storing such resources,
(b) selling, displaying, exposing or offering for sale or possessing such resources, and
(c) introducing such resources to the sea or cultivating such resources.

The duties of IFCAs are extended where fisheries, which it can be seen include aquaculture, exist within Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). IFCAs must manage the exploitation (whether commercial or otherwise) of sea fisheries resources in their districts under section 153 of MCAA and have a statutory duty to ensure that the conservation objectives of marine protected areas in their districts are furthered.

If an IFCA assesses that a private or several fishery (including aquaculture) in its district is or will damage a protected site, it is the IFCA’s responsibility to ensure that the site is managed so as to ensure compliance with the Habitat Directive. This can include making byelaws to manage restrict several or private fishery rights, without the consent of the person enjoying those rights if the right is being exercised in relation to a protected site.

IFCAs may develop several orders, one such IFCA several order exists in Dorset, the Poole Harbour Several Order, 2015. This Order is a 20-year Several Order that allows the Southern IFCA (SIFCA) to lease ground for shellfish production (with shellfish species as defined in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 as ‘crustaceans and molluscs of any kind’). The Order covers 838 ha and currently has 31 beds leased within it. These leases are currently divided by nine different individuals/companies and provide a range of local employment. The leases include large scale mussel, cockle, and Pacific oyster production. Aquaculture in Poole Harbour is valuable, it produces a Gross Output £1,590,000, an Indirect Output of £1,025,250 and a Total Output of £2,615,250* (Source A Tale of Three Fisheries).

To the west of the region, The Devon & Severn IFCA are responsible for the East Devon area. The D&S IFCA is the largest of the ten separate IFCA districts and has two separate coastlines. The area of the District is 4522km² and is defined in the Statutory Instrument (2010 No. 2212). The D&S IFCA District includes the areas of Devon, Torbay, Somerset, Gloucestershire County Councils; Bristol City and Plymouth City Councils; North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Councils and all adjacent waters out to six nautical miles offshore or the median line with Wales.

Southern IFCADevon & Severn IFCA

Navigational Markers & Safety at Sea

As part of the process of confirming whether or not a Marine Licence is required from the MMO, a developer is required to confirm that any proposed works do not constitute a danger to navigation and is required to confirm this with Trinity House.

If marking is required, then this will be confirmed by Trinity House and the details recorded in their database. Any marks or bouys installed will then form part of their annual inspection.

Further assistance

Where further assistance is required please contact the Navigation Directorate.

Tel: 020 7481 6920

Navigation Support Officer | Navigation Directorate | Trinity House

Trinity House

Maritime and Coastguard Agency

As statutory Consultee to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), The Maritime and Coastguard Agency considers impact on the Safety of Navigation, Search and Rescue and Counter Pollution (Source: Cefas Regulatory Toolbox).

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency

Aquaculture Profiles Web Tool

The Sea Fish Industry Authority (Seafish) report that aquaculture now provides half of all fish for human consumption and is one of the most resource-efficient ways to produce protein for us to eat. There is a strong emphasis within the industry to continue reducing its impacts and secure itself as a sustainable source of seafood for generations to come.  Often the single or major source of species such as Atlantic salmon, sea bass, or warm water prawns available in the UK is from aquaculture.

The Seafish Aquaculture Profiles web tool offers profiles of farmed seafood that is most important to the UK market. Included within each species profile are the following:

  • Sources, quantities and cultivation methods
  • Governance and outlook
  • Key considerations for farm siting, water quality, seed supply, pollution impacts, feeds, disease/medicines/chemicals
  • Certification
Aquaculture Profiles Web Tool

Environmental Impacts

The degree of consultation, permissions and planning required in setting up a new farm will vary between sites and in general depends on the species being considered for culture. In particular, any site specific implications of designations under measures of the Habitats Directive, such as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs), would require careful consideration at the very earliest stages of any planned development.

It is recommended that a partnership approach be established between the competent authority, statutory advisers and developers which will then enable the early identification of any potential risks and issues.

Environmental Impacts and New Aquaculture Operations

Under the Aquatic Animal Health (England and Wales) Regulations 2009 all aquaculture production businesses (APB’s) must be authorised by the competent authority.  For England and Wales, the competent authority is the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas).
Applications to establish a new APB, change ownership of an APB or to change use and species at an existing APB can be made by submission to the FHI of a completed Form AW1.  This form can also be used to request permission to introduce alien and locally absent species under The Alien and Locally Absent Species in Aquaculture (England and Wales) Regulations 2011.

The information requested by the Form AW1 includes details about the applicant and owner/operator; proposed changes to an existing APB; details of the site to be developed; species to be cultivated; facilities to be utilised; details of entitlement to operate e.g. lease contract.  The form can be supplemented with additional information about the proposed aquaculture operation which could include mitigation approaches for any known impacts on that site.  The latter is especially relevant where the APB may be located within or near an inshore or offshore European Marine Site (EMS) such as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), Special Protection Area (SPA), Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ).

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)

If a project is likely to have a significant effect on the environment, an EIA must be carried out before a marine licence can be granted. The aims of an EIA are to protect the environment and allow the public to play a part in making decisions (Source: MMO website). The Regulator in this case therefore is the MMO. 

The requirement for an EIA is covered by Annex II of the Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2007 as amended. Applications for new aquaculture operations will need screening against this Annex to check if an EIA is required (mainly sections 1 (f) and (g)). In general, shellfish farming operations are not normally subject to the requirement for an EIA. Finfish farming activities by comparison often require an EIA as part of the Marine Licensing process especially where production will be classed as intensive. Intensive aquaculture falls under Annex II of the Environmental Impact Assessment (Fish Farming in Marine Waters) Regulations 1999 where it is greater than 100 tonnes or 0.1 ha in size (Source: Cefas Regulatory Toolbox).

Habitats Risk Assessments (HRA)

This normally applies when an EIA is not required but site falls within a European & Ramsar conservation site. Amendments to Regulation 100 contained within the Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) Regulations 2011 mean that “marine works” (shellfish farm in this case) now includes authorisations for APBs.  Therefore, where a proposed shellfish farm will take place within an EMS, the APB authorisation is now subject to the Habitats Regulations Assessment for plans or projects.  As such any shellfish farm application in an EMS is now required under Regulation 61 to undergo a Test of Likely Significant Effect (LSE) on the designated features. Therefore, if no other consents are needed, then the FHI as the competent authority must determine whether an appropriate assessment is required, based on information reasonably provided by the applicant, during which they must take into consideration any advice from Natural England and published guidance available from the European Commission. The application can only be consented to if it does not adversely affect the integrity of the EMS, based on the site’s conservation objectives.

The general consultation process for APB authorisation is the same for both England and Wales but with different consultees. Consultees are granted up to 90 days in which to reply to the consultation process. The consultees used for shellfish sites will include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Food Standards Agency / Cefas Classification and Sanitary Survey teams
  • Natural England
  • Natural Resources Wales
  • The IFCAs
  • The Crown Estate
  • The Local Authority

Any objections, comments or queries by the consultees will require investigation as part of the APB application process.  Before any authorisation of an APB can take place an assessment visit by an FHI Inspector will normally take place. This site visit gives the Inspector an opportunity to follow up on comments by the consultees and the Inspector will normally take this opportunity to discuss with the applicant the detailed conditions of authorisation that the site would be subject to whilst operating as an APB.

Aquaculture Insurance

Insurance policies are now available for aquaculture operations although this is considered a specialist market. Policies can be set up through reputable insurance brokers, agents or direct with the insurers themselves. A good starting point for investigations into obtaining insurance for aquaculture operations would be to review the information contained on the following website:

Aquaculture InsuranceFAO Insurance Guide

Port Permissions

In addition to the aquaculture licensing and permissions described in the Regulatory Toolboxes, commercial ports and harbours, due to their multi-stakeholder activities, also have additional licensing requirements.  One of the main permissions that may be required in this respect is a Tidal Works Licence. This licence covers the construction, alteration, renewal or extension of works under or over tidal waters or land below the level of high water.

When considering either a new, or change to an existing, aquaculture activity within a port or harbour, it is strongly recommended that the relevant authorities are contacted at the outset.

Last updated: 12 August 2021