IFCAs and Aquaculture

The UK shellfish industry is a multi-million pound sector that produces thousands of tonnes of shellfish each year, with considerable potential for further growth. Aquaculture, in all its forms, is a developing component of England’s seafood industry, contributing to provision of high value, healthy seafood. To ensure this industry can grow its contribution to the blue economy, a combination of innovation, integration and proportionate regulation is needed. This paper sets out how IFCAs roles and responsibilities interact with the objectives of the English Aquaculture Strategy and Joint Fisheries Statement, the wider regulatory framework and the development of a clear policy for English aquaculture.

The role of IFCAs

The ten English Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) were established under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and are committees or joint committees of local government with jurisdiction out to 6 nautical miles. The shared national vision is that:
“IFCAs will lead, champion and manage a sustainable marine environment and inshore fisheries, by successfully by securing the right balance between social, environmental and economic benefits to ensure healthy seas, sustainable fisheries and a viable industry.”
Under the 2009 Marine Act, IFCAs have a duty to manage the exploitation of sea fisheries resources within their districts. ‘Sea fisheries resources’ means any animal or plants that habitually live in the sea, including those that are cultivated in the sea and ‘exploitation’ includes introducing such resources to the sea or cultivating such resources. Given these definitions, the IFCAs have a clear duty to consider management of marine based aquaculture for non-migratory finfish, shellfish and macroalgae within their jurisdictions while undertaking their duties.

How do they do this?

The ten IFCAs work with the community to secure the right balance between social, environmental and economic benefits. IFCAs work to ensure healthy seas, sustainable fisheries and a viable inshore fishing industry. Through our local management and funding structures, the IFCAs help to put local authorities, local communities, local businesses and individual citizens in the driving seat, allowing them to play a bigger
part in the protection and enhancement of their inshore marine environment. The IFCAs operate within the wider UK marine policy framework and where appropriate, have regard and contribute to the delivery of national policy. Accordingly, the IFCAs support the objectives of the English Aquaculture Strategy 2040 for the development of aquaculture nationally and contribute to implementation of the policies related to aquaculture within the Joint Fisheries Statement. The IFCAs have an important role in delivering local solutions to national strategic objectives.

Working together to support sustainable growth

The English Aquaculture Strategy sets out both government’s and industry’s ambitions for sustainable, industry-led growth of the sector and presents the strategic principles and objectives to achieve these ambitions. It also highlights some of the key challenges to achieving these aims including the complex regulatory landscape and the need for greater support to aquaculture planning at a regional level. Working with national and regional partners the IFCAs have an important role in advancing the ambitions of the English Aquaculture Strategy.

The IFCAs support the ambition for a transparent, streamlined process for applicants seeking regulatory approval for aquaculture developments. Anywhere regulation is necessary this needs to be proportionate to the scale of the developments and the associated environmental risks. Where developments include linkages with the terrestrial planning system and where local authorities are signatories, the Coastal Concordat outlines the high level principles that should be applied when multiple bodies have a regulatory function. Where no such terrestrial linkages exist, the IFCAs support the use of the principles of the Coastal Concordat to coordinate the evidential requirements associated with an application between marine regulators and statutory advisors.

The IFCAs work with the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), other regulators and statutory advisors to identify the required supporting material and highlight relevant regional considerations as appropriate. The IFCA encourage potential aquaculturists to contact the relevant local IFCA so we can provide support and highlight opportunities and possible issues.

Supporting regional aquaculture planning

IFCAs support for marine aquaculture planning at a regional level can take place through local partnership working with coastal fora, regulatory and industry bodies to identify areas of potential sustainable aquaculture production and in identifying and mitigating potential spatial conflict with other sea users, especially wild capture fisheries interests.
Spatial planning in the English marine environment is delivered through England’s Marine Plans developed under the UK Marine Policy Statement, these regional plans set out the priorities and directions for future development within the individual plan areas and help stakeholders considering applying for a marine licence where conflicts with existing sea users and uses may arise. The IFCAs recommend, however, that developers engage in early and meaningful dialogue with the local fishing industry and recreational users.

The IFCAs are embedded in their local communities and have excellent knowledge of spatial and temporal trends within regional wild capture fisheries as well as the characteristics of their marine environments. IFCAs can advise prospective developers on the types of fishing taking place in and around a proposed aquaculture area, seasonal considerations, and particular fisheries’ sensitivities.

However, this should be in addition to, not instead of the developer engaging in early and meaningful dialogue with the local fishing industry. IFCAs can provide contact details of allocated fishing industry representatives, but not for individual fishers nor other sea users. Examples of regional approaches to aquaculture planning are beginning to emerge as the industry develops and the demands on available marine space increase. The IFCAs support the development of these collaborative initiatives.

Several and Regulating Orders

Several and Regulating Orders (SROs) are special legislation to encourage the setting up and management of private and natural shellfisheries in UK coastal waters.
Whilst SROs have the reputation of being complex and unwieldy, in actual fact they continue to present opportunities to enhance UK aquaculture, and increased production, particularly the farming of shellfish which has generally stagnated in the UK over recent years.
Under the Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act 1967, government can make orders to encourage the establishment and improvement of private shellfisheries and to improve the management of natural shellfisheries. The are two types of order are:

• Several orders, which are granted for setting up or improving private shellfisheries
• Regulating orders, which give the right to manage exploitation of a natural shellfishery
Furthermore there are also ‘Hybrid Orders’ where a Regulating Order may specify leases (i.e. Several Orders) within its own area.

In England the option exists for fishery orders to be granted individuals, companies, groups and also to the local IFCA which may then lease the rights under the order. The IFCAs (including their Sea Fishery Committee predecessors) have utilised this regulatory tool to develop and manage fisheries within their jurisdictions.

Grantee Order Name Order Type
Eastern IFCA The Wash Fishery Order 1992 Hybrid
Devon and Severn IFCA The Waddeton Fishery Order 2001 Hybrid
Cornwall IFCA The Fal Fishery Order 2016 Regulating
Kent and Essex IFCA The Thames Estuary Cockle Fishery Order 1994 Regulating
Kent and Essex IFCA The River Roach Oyster Fishery Order 2013 Several
Southern IFCA The Poole Harbour Fishery Order 2015 Several

Several orders are also used alongside IFCA byelaws, such as in Poole Harbour. This capacity in conjunction with our byelaw making powers means the IFCAs are well placed to contribute to achieving the objectives of the EAS.

Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Area (MPA) is an ‘umbrella term’ for an area of the sea that is designated to protect marine habitats and species. They are one of the tools used to protect the marine environment and promote the sustainable use of marine resources. There are a range of MPA types within England established under different legislation and international conventions.

Many aquaculture farms exist within MPAs. Fishing activities should be appropriately managed within MPAs to ensure that conservation objectives are met. IFCAs are a competent authority for the management of fishing activities within the inshore (0-6nm) area and, as such, must take the necessary steps to ensure that the conservation objectives of MPAs are furthered. Each IFCA has the ability to introduce byelaws for the management of fishing activities in their district.

Where the IFCA is the manager of an SRO, or where they have powers of management in private and wild fisheries, they must ensure protection of the designated features of MPAs where potential interactions exist. They may apply restrictions on activities that are likely to cause a significant effect. The IFCAs work closely with industry and Natural England in these cases to ensure that aquaculture activities do not hinder sites achieving their conservation objectives.


The IFCAs play an important role in the management of marine based aquaculture, its development as a growing sector and support furthering the objectives of the English Aquaculture Strategy. They work with partner agencies to deliver and develop national policies such as England’s Marine Plans, utilising the knowledge and experiences gained through their links with local communities to ensure a balanced approach to development that takes into account all sea users and the marine environment.