Management of commercial and leisure fisheries in the Solent is the responsibility of the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (SIFCA). As the new Marine Conservation Zones are implemented, SIFCA is likely to emerge as the enforcement agency, which will affect all Solent users. But the area they cover with limited resources is large, so will they be effective?
There is probably no subject that causes stronger feelings among Solent users than certain aspects of fishery, whether it is clam dredging, unlit pot buoys fouling boat propellers, or commercial fishing in mooring areas.
The estuaries within the Solent provide a key route for several migratory fish species: the Salmon, Sea Trout and European Eel. The lifecycle of these species means that in the case of salmonids, the adult fish return from the sea to the rivers to spawn and for eels that the juveniles arrive having drifted on currents from the Sargasso Sea to enter our waters. In the case of Salmon and European Eel they normally undertake only one spawning migration throughout their lifetime and are therefore exposed to the risks of the Solent at least twice.
Fisheries Management in the Solent:
There are a number of licenced eel fisherman in the Solent, who primarily fish for resident yellow eels using fyke nets. This fishery is capped to restrict expansion, and is regulated by the Environment Agency.
In 2013 the Environment Agency have started working with industry to implement the Eel Regulations. This legislation requires eel passage to be addressed at all obstructions and licensed abstractions. The work will lead to improvements at many sites to ensure safe passage of eel of all life-stages. In addition, this work has potential to simultaneously reduce the small life-stages of other fish species entrained at intakes in the Solent.
The Environment Agency has a key fisheries enforcement role within the Solent. Their primary concern within the estuary is of illegal nets used to catch both Salmon and Sea Trout. In August 2013 the Environment Agency released their Salmon Watch campaign asking the public to get involved in spotting suspicious nets hung between moorings and in harbour areas. Migratory fish are also at risk of being poached as they enter the freshwater systems from May onwards. Much of the Environment Agency’s enforcement work is done collaboratively with the Southern IFCA, the military and the police.
The Environment Agency undertakes extensive work with industry to reduce the impacts that development has on protected areas and migratory fish. Of particular relevance to migratory fish are piling activities which pose risks of excessive noise which can lead to disturbance and avoidance behaviour in migratory salmonids and dredging which has the potential to have negative impacts on water quality.
The Environment Agency also has a representative on the Southern IFCA.
There are many issues surrounding fishing including conservation of stocks, water quality and agricultural runoff
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