Byelaws we are involved in

Contact Us

Inshore sea fisheries are regulated using local byelaws. Byelaws are local laws made by a local council under an enabling power contained in a public general act or a local act requiring something to be done – or not done – in a specified area. They are accompanied by some sanction or penalty for their non-observance.

What is the byelaw development process?


What Happens?

How to Get Involved:


IFCAs propose fisheries management solutions for their districts.  This is often done by liaising with stakeholders to identify problems and develop voluntary measures.

New byelaws will only be proposed if deemed necessary. While a proposal to consider introducing byelaws is made by operational staff including the Chief Officer, decisions to make byelaws can only be made by committee vote which is led by the IFCA Chair.

IFCAs also have the power to make emergency byelaws for unforeseen evidence of damage or deterioration is likely without intervention.

Any decisions taken by the IFCA must be evidence based. IFCAs gather evidence in a range of ways including habitat or stock assessments, listening to views from industry, other stakeholders such as Natural England, or alignment with national priorities set by Defra.  An absence of evidence may justify taking a precautionary approach while evidence is gathered.

There is a requirement for the IFCAs to engage with all those that depend on the sea for their livelihood. IFCAs must also engage with others who have an interest in how fish stocks and the marine environment are managed so any decisions are evidence-based. It is crucial that byelaws are developed through consultation with as many stakeholders as possible, especially those invested in the health of our seas and the sustainability of our fish stocks. 

If you would like to offer a view on a proposed byelaw, contact the relevant IFCA.

2 (a)

If the introduction of a new byelaw is considered necessary, there are two main stages of byelaw evidence gathering: informal and formal.

The informal stage is when evidence is gathered, and management options are evaluated.  At this stage the management tools available range from voluntary measures to byelaws.  IFCAs may use a combination of drop-in sessions, newsletters, community meetings and announcements via social media.

The IFCAs create opportunities for local stakeholders to have their views heard. At this stage of the byelaw making process no decisions have been made and feedback is essential. It is important that individuals or organisations are able to voice their concerns about proposals.

2 (b)

At the formal stage a byelaw is ‘made’ by the IFCA Committee and an Impact Assessment that presents the socio-economic impact on businesses is developed. A process of formal consultation is undertaken prior to the byelaw’s confirmation. During the formal stage of the byelaw development process the IFCA examines all timely objections.

Any byelaw made by an IFCA will be accompanied by a formal public debate at an IFCA meeting.

IFCAs welcome feedback from stakeholders during the consultation process.

Members of the public may attend IFCA meetings, and any meeting details and papers are available on the IFCAs’ websites.


The byelaw is then submitted to the MMO for quality assurance and then to Defra for confirmation.  Objections received through a consultation process are called ‘representations’.  The IFCA may consider amending the byelaw in light of those representations. 

The IFCA submits the byelaw and any supporting documentation, including the impact assessment, consultation information and relevant meeting minutes for formal quality assurance by the MMO. The MMO then seek legal and policy advice on the byelaw, working with the IFCA to create a final version.  As part of the review process, Defra may also highlight aspects of the byelaw they feel require further scrutiny.  This may involve discussions with lawyers or asking the IFCA to reconsider the wording or content of the byelaw.  Defra also considers any proposed byelaw in line with Defra’s statutory guidance on .GOV.UK, including whether the IFCA has followed due process and that the IFCA has fully evaluated the evidence presented in the Impact Assessment and considered any objections received during the consultation period. 

Where appropriate the IFCA will respond in writing to objectors and liaise with them with a view to resolving the objection.


Once a final version is agreed, the MMO submits the byelaw to the Secretary of State on behalf of the IFCA alongside a recommendation to either approve or reject the byelaw. If approved and implemented, byelaws must be reviewed according to a prescribed timescale.

The role of IFCAs and byelaws

Local and national management of our inshore marine environment and fish stocks: byelaw development
The following guide is an Association document produced in consultation with Defra and the Marine Management Organisation.

Why do we need inshore management?

This Government’s ambition is to ensure that the UK’s use of resources, such as food and fish is sustainable and efficient whilst restoring and enhancing the environment, leaving it in a better state than we found it for the next generation. Government, regulators and industry must all play a part if we are to improve our marine environment for the current and future generations.

Who is responsible for developing/enforcing inshore management measures?

Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
Defra ensures the right policies and legislation are in place in order to achieve effective inshore management. These are implemented through the collective effort of our delivery partners around our coast, including the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and the ten Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) who are responsible for making byelaws in English inshore waters.

IFCAs (Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities)
The IFCAs were created by the Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009) as successors to the Sea Fisheries Committees (SFCs). The IFCAs became fully operational in 2011 and in addition to the existing responsibilities of the SFCs as the inshore sea fisheries regulator out to six nautical miles from the coast, their remit was expanded to include a responsibility for the protection of marine ecosystems. The additional duties to protect the marine environment centred on ensuring that fisheries management measures in marine conservation zones (MCZs) were in place to protect vulnerable habitats and species from the most damaging fishing gears. The IFCAs also became responsible for fisheries management measures in other marine protected areas in their districts, such as special areas of conservation (SACs) and special protection areas (SPAs).

Defra recognises that the IFCAs have exceptional local knowledge of the fisheries, habitats and species within their districts as well as the fishing sectors that rely on catching fish for their livelihood and recreation. In practice this means that IFCAs balance the needs of fishing with the protection of the marine environment and tailor the management of their districts to take account of local priorities. Where there is conflict locally and a likelihood that fishing will damage or degrade protected marine species or habitats in districts, IFCAs must act. IFCAs are required to consider the advice provided by Defra’s statutory advisors and have regard to policy such as marine plans.

IFCAs have an important fisheries management function to protect stocks and ensure fishing activity within their districts is sustainable. Where there is evidence that fishing is affecting the health of fish and shellfish stocks, IFCAs can introduce management measures to protect these species. All IFCAs have the same powers and tools to introduce measures but the way these tools are applied are adapted to meet local needs.

Defra believes that the range of modern management tools available to the IFCAs enables them to apply adaptable and flexible fisheries management measures that are driven by local priorities and need. These local measures also assist with national priorities set by Defra such as improving the condition of our network of marine protected areas and implementing Fisheries Management Plans through powers in the Fisheries Act.

MMO (The Marine Management Organisation)
The MMO appoints IFCA general members in accordance with guidance set out by Defra. This guidance recognises that there is a need to ensure a balance of all of the relevant interests of persons engaged in the exploitation of sea fisheries resources within the IFCA area: for example, from fishing groups (commercial and non-commercial), marine nature conservation groups and other interested parties, such as Port Authorities, estuarine interests and other marine industries. An IFCA must base its decisions on evidence and take appropriate expert advice and it is for this reason that the MMO as well as Natural England and the Environment Agency nominate representatives to each IFCA.

The MMO has a responsibility to support the development of byelaws within English waters. The MMO provides quality assurance, liaising with IFCAs to provide legal and policy advice on draft byelaws and impact assessments.

it is only by leading, championing and managing a sustainable marine environment and inshore fisheries that we can be successful as an Association.

Tony Tomlinson MBE

Chairman, Association of IFCA