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Ongoing Reviews

The following page provides information regarding the fisheries which are under review within the Southern IFC District. To view a specific section please use the links below:

Review of the 2016 Bottom Towed Fishing Gear Byelaw

In 2016, Southern IFCA introduced its Bottom Towed Fishing Gear Byelaw to protect sensitive habitats and species found in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) throughout the District.

Bottom towed fishing gears (BTFG), or mobile demersal gears such as light otter trawls or shellfish dredges have been used by fishers for generations in the coastal waters of Dorset, Hampshire, and the Isle of Wight.

These techniques have the potential to impact or adversely affect sensitive seabed habitats and features of Marine Protected Areas. Since 2016, evidence of the location of sensitive species and habitats has improved and additional MPAs have been designated. Therefore, it is now important to consider how the management of BTFG can be improved, to support a healthy marine environment and sustainable fisheries, promoting positive economic and social benefits for coastal communities. In addition, sensitive species and habitats have also been identified outside of MPAs. 

To achieve Southern IFCA’s duties, new management is necessary following the designation of additional MCZs and MCZ features in the District; and to ensure habitats and species in other MPAs are protected according to the most up to date evidence. Southern IFCA is therefore reviewing the BTFG byelaw.

The review commenced with an informal consultation on a number of proposed changes to the Byelaw which ran from the 17th June to the 1st August 2022. The cosultation considered amendments to the Southern IFCA Bottom Towed Fishing Gear Byelaw 2016 based on updated evidence, newly designated sites and features, updated Conservation Advice provided by Natural England and evidence of sensitive habitats outside of MPAs. Responses were invited via email, post and via an online form. Throughout the consultation period, Southern IFCA officers contacted key stakeholders to inform them of the consultation and engaged with fishers whilst out on patrol.

Following the consultations completion a Summary of Responses document was drafted and can be viewed here.
The full consultation document can be viewed here .

Next Steps

Southern IFCA will now review the responses and consider any changes to be made to the proposed closure areas through a Members Byelaw Working Group. Following this, a draft byelaw will be presented to the Authority. Should the Authority choose to make a byelaw it will be advertised in local publications and on the Authority website. The byelaw will then be subjected to a 28-day statutory consultation, during which the community will have the opportunity to formally respond.

Pot and Trap Fisheries Review

Pot and trap fishing has been a key part of the Southern IFC District’s history for generations. Today, this fishery supports more than 220 commercial fishers who use pots or traps to collect crabs, lobsters, whelks and cuttlefish. In addition, the District’s waters support more than 40 recreational pot fishers who catch crab and lobster for their own personal consumption. 

Southern IFCA is currently undergoing a review of the management measures in the District’s inshore pot fisheries in order to ensure that they remain sustainable and support the industry for future generations. 

The review began with a ‘Call for information’, which invited stakeholders to submit views on whether any improvements could be made to management and how improvements could be achieved to support the sustainability of the pot fisheries.

A total of forty responses were received, which highlighted that further management measures were required to support the District’s pot fisheries sustainability. Since then, an Authority Working Group, consisting of Defra Appointee Members, has been carrying out this review in an evidence based, strategic and proportionate manner. In line with the objectives of the review. Members have considered the effectiveness of existing management and opportunities to strengthen it. The best available evidence from a variety of sources, including stock and catch assessments, scientific literature and the knowledge of commercial and recreational users has supported discussions to date.

Pot & Trap Call for Information Summary of Responses 2019

Following this, Members approved a 10-week public consultation on a review of management measures in the inshore pot fisheries within the Southern IFC District. The consultation considered a number of more specific management measures such as; recreational pot and catch limits, commercial pot limits, fishery closed seasons, species minimum conservation reference sizes and escape gaps. Over all, a total of 110 responses were received in response to the consultation. A copy of the summary document for this public consultation can be viewed using the link below:

Southern IFCA’s Summary of Responses to the review of management measures in the inshore pot fisheries. January 2021.

Based upon the responses submitted duirng previous consultations and other available evidence a Pot Fishing Byelaw was 'made' by the Authority in March 2022 and was then advertised publicly for two consecutive weeks. Immediatly following its advertisment, a period of Formal Consultation was open for 28 days during which objections to the byelaw could be sumbitted. A number of objections and letters of support were recieved during this time. 

Next Steps

The Pot Fishing Byelaw has been submitted to the Marine Management Organisation for Quality Assurance. Only once the Byelaw has completed this stage and been signed off by the Secretary of State will it come into effect.

Minimum Conservation Reference Sizes Review

Many commercial species caught within the Southern IFC District are subject to a Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS), previously known as Minimum Landing Size or Minimum Legal Size. This statutory measure prevents fish or shellfish below a set size from being removed from the fishery and is therefore recognised as an effective tool for the sustainable management of fisheries. 

A MCRS for a species is often set based upon the size at which 50% of the population reaches maturity. This ensures at least 50% of juveniles have an opportunity to sexually mature and reproduce at least once before potential capture. Additional factors such as market size, existing legislation, stock status and reproductive strategies can also influence whether and how a MCRS is set.

We have undertaken an extensive literature review, using published and grey literature, based upon 50% size of sexual maturity for commercial and recreational species in the District.

Size at Maturity Reviews

Best available evidence on reproductive biology, life history and the social and economic value of 25 species has also been summarised in individual Species Profiles .

To build upon the evidence collected to date Southern IFCA held a ‘Call for Information’ from the 24 th May to 20 th July 2021 to provide stakeholders and the community an opportunity to contribute evidence to the Review.

Size at Maturity Research

Since 2020, Southern IFCA have been collecting primary data in order to improve our knowledge and understanding of the following five species within the District:

Grey Mullet

In collaboration with the University of Plymouth we are investigating the size at maturity for thin-lipped ( Chelon ramada ), golden-grey ( Chelon aurata ) and thick-lipped ( Chelon labrosus ) grey mullet. Working with local fishers sample collection for golden-grey and thin-lipped grey mullet took place from July-September 2020. Thick-lipped grey mullet sampling is ongoing and proposed to continue until early 2022. Two MRes students – Callum Pritchard and Andrew Macleod are undertaking the analysis of the grey mullet, supervised by Dr Benjamin Ciotti. The main objectives of the research are to:

1.    Calculate the age and length at 50% maturity for each species

2.    Determine the time of the spawning season using the Gonadosomatic Index (GSI)

3.    Identify morphological characteristics that may be used to distinguish between species

4.    Confirm the identity of species using C01 gene barcoding and a Saccular otolith key

5.    Develop a detailed gonad maturity scale

Lab analysis began in March and includes morphometric measurements, the removal of scales to analyse the age of each specimen and macroscopic staging of the gonads using Tulkani’s maturity scale for grey mullet¹. Gonads are also weighed to calculate the Gonadosomatic Index (GSI) and tissue samples will be used for DNA sequencing techniques.

A report on the maturity of golden-grey and thin-lipped grey mullet is expected by the end of September 2021. Further samples are required to attain an accurate estimate for 50% maturity for thick-lipped grey mullet therefore, research on thick-lipped grey mullet is expected to conclude in September 2022. Reports will be published on our website and all parties involved are very keen for the research to be peer-reviewed and published in a scientific journal. Very few studies have examined the reproductive biology of grey mullet species in British waters hence this research is extremely valuable in providing a greater understanding for not only the IFCA but the wider community. The results of the research will feed into our Minimum Conservation Reference Sizes review.

1.Tulkani, R. H. M. (2017). ‘Population biology of two species of grey mullet, Liza abu in central Iraq (Heckel, 1843) and Chelon labrosus (Risso, 1827) in North West Wales’, PhD Thesis, Bangor University, Wale

Gilthead Bream (Sparus aurata)

Historically, gilthead bream has not been a commercial species in the UK but within recent years a fishery has started to emerge in Dorset and Hampshire as the distribution of the gilthead bream has expanded northwards from the Mediterranean to the southern coasts of England. Very little is known about the reproductive ecology of the gilthead bream in British waters including their size at maturity (SIFCA Gilthead Bream Species Profile) . In 2020, Southern IFCA started a pilot study to collect data on the size at maturity for gilthead bream in the District. Data collection will continue until 2022 in collaboration with partner agencies and academic institutions.  

Whelk (Buccinum spp.)

The size at which whelks mature varies greatly on a small geographical scale. Previous studies have found whelk populations across the Southern IFC District mature at different sizes (SIFCA Whelk Species Profile). Working with commercial whelk fishers within the District we hope to collect samples across multiple sites in 2022 to confirm these differences.

Next Steps

Following the ‘Call for Information’, which ran for 8 weeks from the 24 th May to 20 th July 2021, all responses were collated into a ‘Summary of Reponses’ report. This report along with the maturity literature review packages and additional evidence collated to date will help inform our Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) in their decision making and drafting of new measures.

Further opportunities to comment and input into the MCRS Review will be available through a period of informal consultation, to be held once draft measures have been drafted.

Review of Net Fishing

The harbour and estuarine waters of Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are highly biodiverse and ecologically rich habitats, providing valuable nursery and refuge areas for a variety of fish species. These transitional waters also form an important migratory route for salmon and sea trout as they leave and re-enter our riverine environments. The harbours, estuaries and piers in the district are also important places for people, offering a place to enjoy through recreation or somewhere to make an income. In particular, these areas hold great significance for recreational and commercial fisheries.

Net fishing is an activity which has been carried out by fishers in estuaries, harbours and the coastal waters of the Southern IFCA district for generations. Net types and fishing methods have evolved over time to reflect the target species, local environment, technological advances and the persons engaged in the activity. At the same time, the potential impacts of developing fishing methods on the marine environment and fish populations have also changed.

In 2017 the Authority identified, through a strategic review of management measures, that reviewing the management of near-shore netting in the district was a priority. The aim of the review was to enhance the environmental, socio-economic and fisheries sustainability of the Southern IFCA district by addressing four main objectives:

  1. Supporting the use of estuaries and harbours in the Southern IFCA district by bass and other fish populations as nursery, feeding and refuge areas;
  2. Providing protection to migratory fish species as they move through our estuaries and harbours; and, in doing so,
  3. Balance the social and economic benefits of exploiting the fishery; and
  4. Further the conservation objectives of designated sites

An Authority Working Group, consisting of Defra Appointee Members, has been carrying out this review in an evidence based, strategic and proportionate manner. In line with the objectives of the review, Members have considered the effectiveness of existing management and opportunities to strengthen it. The best available evidence from a variety of sources, including the Environment Agency, Natural England and commercial and recreational users has supported decision making throughout this review.

The Authority has undertaken two informal consultations with stakeholders as part of the review:


Through the Authority Working Group, a series of proposals were drafted on which the views of the community were sought through a period of pre-consultation. The consultation ran for a period of 8 weeks from 15th October to 7th December 2018 with the views of the local community being sought through a variety of different methods. A copy of the Summary of Responses document for the pre-consultation can be viewed using the link below:

Public Consultation on Net Fishing Management for Estuaries, Harbours and Piers in Dorset, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Summary of Responses, January 2019

Secondary Pre-Consultation

Members of the Authority Working Group committed to undertaking a review of the draft proposals based on the submission of evidence through the pre-consultation and recommended to the Authority that a Net Fishing Byelaw be drafted to introduce new net fishing measures in the district which addressed the objectives of the review. At this stage the Authority agreed to seek the views of the most affected users through a second round of pre-consultation, targeted towards representative groups. A consultation document was produced for consultees outlining proposed management measures under the Net Fishing Byelaw and representative groups of the potentially most affected and engaged users identified through the review process were contacted and invited to engage with officers and provide a response during the period January to February 2020. A copy of the Summary of Responses document for the secondary pre-consultation can be viewed using the link below:

Secondary Consultation on Potential Net Management Measures for Estuaries, Harbours and Piers Summary of Responses, March 2020

Formal Consultation

In line with byelaw making guidance, Southern IFCA held a formal consultation on the Net Fishing Byelaw. This ran for 28 days from 7th January to 4th February 2022. The documents which were made available as part of this consultation are listed below:

Net Fishing Byelaw
Net Fishing Byelaw Impact Assessment
Southampton Water Net Permit
River Hamble Net Permit
Christchurch Harbour Net Permit
Net Fishing Byelaw: Process, Tools and Intentions Document
Net Fishing Byelaw Monitoring and Control Plan
Net Fishing Byelaw Conservation Assessment Package
Net Fishing Byelaw Literature Review
Site Specific Evidence Package

Next Steps

The Net Fishing Byelaw has been submitted to the Marine Management Organisation for Quality Assurance. Only once the Byelaw has completed this stage and been signed off by the Secretary of State will it come into effect.

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