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Poole Harbour Aquaculture

Aquaculture has occurred in Poole Harbour for over 60 years with activity focused on bivalve shellfish species. The main species grown are the Pacific oyster ( Magallana gigas ), mussel ( Mytilus edulis ), the Manila clam ( Ruditapes philippinarum ) and the common cockle ( Cerastoderma edule ).

Historically, the aquaculture activity in Poole was managed under The Poole Fishery Order 1985, a hybrid several/regulating order under which lease beds were created and leases issued for the farming of shellfish species. In 2015, the Order was due for renewal and this provided an opportunity to review the management of aquaculture in Poole Harbour alongside the review of the wild shellfish fishery. 

On 1 st July 2015 The Poole Harbour Fishery Order 2015 was created to replace The Poole Fishery Order 1985. The Poole Harbour Fishery Order 2015 (The Order) was developed alongside the Poole Harbour Dredge Permit Byelaw to regulate shellfish fisheries in Poole Harbour for both aquaculture and the wild dredge fishery. The Order confers on Southern IFCA the right of several fishery for the cultivation of shellfish of any kind for a period of twenty years with leases issued under The Order for a period of five years. The Order covers an area of 837.8 hectares within which there are 12 lease beds. 

The Southern IFCA aims to promote and manage aquaculture under The Order within well-structured and appropriate governance that allows the IFCA to meet its nature conservation duties, to develop the future potential for aquaculture practice and to seek to better balance the interests of stakeholders. How aquaculture activity is managed under The Order is set out in the Poole Harbour Several Order 2015 Management Plan (2020 revision). This document sits alongside a Biosecurity Plan which aims to minimise the risk of disease or introduction of non-native species through shellfish imports and exports and a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) for the issuing of leases.

In 2018, a review of the economic value of aquaculture in Poole Harbour was undertaken by the New Economics Foundation 1 . Mussels and Pacific oysters were found to be the two most significant species for aquaculture, with Poole Harbour being the largest Pacific oyster production area in England. The study showed that the total economic activity for aquaculture in Poole (encompassing both gross output and indirect output from industries in the supply chain) was £2,615,250.

1 Williams, C. and Davies, W. (2018). A tale of three fisheries: the value of the small-scale commercial fishing fleet, aquaculture and the recreational charter boat fleet, to the local economy of Poole. A Report by the New Economics Foundation , London, pp. 41 ( A tale of three fisheries - NEF Consulting )

Fishery Monitoring and Stock Assessments

Aquaculture is the breeding, raising and harvesting of marine species. For shellfish aquaculture in Poole Harbour, the two main species are obtained as seed from other aquaculture businesses or the natural environment and then grown-on to market size. Other species are relayed from wild fisheries and are placed on the lease beds to either grow to the preferred market size or to provide a source of catch during times when wild fisheries are closed. Where species are relayed from the wild Poole Harbour clam and cockle fishery, individuals are obtained as part of the permitted fishery which is subject to its own stock assessment. Species obtained from other aquaculture businesses are not part of a wild stock and therefore do not require assessment. The appropriate stocking of a particular aquaculture species and the associated husbandry is managed by the lease holder.

Monitoring of aquaculture in Poole Harbour is carried out in line with The Poole Harbour Several Order 2015 Management Plan (2020 /2021) . The Southern IFCA provides information to Defra and Cefas on an annual basis on stock movements and biosecurity respectively.

Marine Protected Area Assessments

Duties under Regulation 63 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017 require Southern IFCA, as a competent authority, to make an appropriate assessment of a plan or project likely to have a significant effect on a European site (either alone or in combination with other plans or projects). As such, a Habitats Regulations Assessment (HRA) is undertaken every five years for the issuing of leases under The Poole Harbour Fishery Order 2015. The current HRA is for the issuing of leases for the period 2020-2025.  

The purpose of assessment is to determine, whether or not in the view of Southern IFCA, the issue of leases will hinder the achievement of the conservation objectives of the Poole Harbour SPA and lead to an adverse effect on site integrity. 

A review of research into aquaculture activity and associated fishing practices identifies the activity occurring as a result of the issuing of a lease has the potential to disturb bird populations and lead to changes in prey availability and the extent and distribution of supporting breeding and non-breeding habitat. These potential impacts and risks to the integrity of the site are however mitigated through the provisions and management measures detailed in the Management Plan for The Order and in each lease where specified conditions must be observed by the lessee. Management measures can be general or specific for individual lease beds and may include; requirement for lease holders to use and manage lease beds in accordance with the provisions submitted in the leaseholder’s Business Plan, restrictions on removal of shellfish, compliance with species specific measures, vessel length requirements, temporal or spatial restrictions on activity, a requirement for lease beds to be marked and a requirement on leaseholders to facilitate inspections.

With these management measures in place, it has been concluded that the issuing of leases for the period 2020-2025 will not hinder the site from achieving its conservation objectives and as such will not have an adverse effect upon the integrity of the Poole Harbour SPA and Ramsar site.

Appropriate Assessment – Issue of Leases under the Poole Harbour Fishery Order 2015 for 2020-25

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