Inland fisheries earn money for the UK, and fishing can help sustain rural communities. A recent evaluation of the UK’s freshwater fisheries estimated that they support about £1 billion of our household income, the equivalent of 37,000 jobs.
We need to safeguard our fish stocks for the long term. This will keep our inland fisheries productive.
Freshwater and migratory fish are also important to the natural environment - maintaining fish stocks helps us protect biodiversity.
Better management of fish stocks
We’re encouraging better management of migratory and freshwater fish stocks by introducing regulations designed to protect them.
The Environment Agency regulates rod fishing for migratory and freshwater fish. Anyone fishing for salmon, trout, freshwater fish or eels in England must have a rod licence. The Environment Agency carries out licence checking patrols to ensure compliance with fishing regulations
Increasing Europe’s eel stocks
We’re working to improve Europe’s eel stocks by producing management plans to prevent overfishing and improve eel habitats.
New laws on moving live fish
We intend to introduce new laws which will make it easier to move live fish around our rivers and inland water bodies. This should make trading easier for some fish farms.
Non-native species of fish
We’re limiting the numbers of non-native species of fish in our inland waters, where it makes sense to do so.
Stocks of some fish species are very low. For example, stocks of European Eel have declined by about 95% over the last 30 years.
The most recent annual assessment shows there are fewer salmon rivers ‘at risk’ than in the previous 5 years, although salmon stocks in England and Wales are still low.
The EU Water Framework Directive says we have to restore fish stocks to the levels near to those that would exist ‘without human impacts’ - in other words, if our inland waters hadn’t been fished, modified, polluted etc.
Who we’ve consulted
The new regulations are designed to make the application process to build fish passages more straightforward for businesses.
Bills and legislation
We implement and enforce the following legislation:
Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 (amended) - this brings together most of the previous laws for the protection of salmon and freshwater fish
Water Resources Act 1991 - this allows us to bring in local byelaws to manage fisheries
European Council Regulation No 1100/2007 and the Eels (England and Wales) Regulations 2009 - the European Council Regulation sets a target for the recovery of European eel stocks and requires EU member states to develop management plans to improve eel stocks, and the Eels Regulations give us the powers to take action
Who we’re working with
The Environment Agency
The Environment Agency has day-to-day responsibility for salmon, eels and freshwater fish.
Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas)
The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) provides Defra with scientific advice on migratory and freshwater fisheries. Cefas’ Fish Health Inspectorate provides advice on aquaculture (the farming of fish, shellfish and other water organisms).
Natural England works to conserve rivers, lakes and other water-bodies.
The Angling Trust
The Angling Trust represents all game, coarse and sea anglers in England. It produced the Fishing for Life National Strategy in November 2012. It’s now working to implement the strategy with partner organisations.