Freshwater fisheries


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.

Angling is a popular and healthy recreation with social benefits in the UK, as shown by the National Angling Survey 2012 and the Fishing for Answers report.

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 have introduced new laws which 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

During parliament’s scrutiny of the 2012 Water Bill, we consulted on the potential for including approvals for fish passages in the Environmental Permitting Regulations.

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:

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

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.