The Solent is a mixed sea fishery, with fishing effort which varies between a number of different commercial species throughout the year. The inshore waters are important as a nursery area for bass, with specific areas identified for protection, and for a range of other fin-fish. A large variety of species are targeted commercially and recreationally within the Southern IFC District in which the Solent sits. Shellfish account for the top four most caught commercial species in the District with the greatest landings attributed to whelk at over 1,400 tonnes in 2019. Sole and plaice are two of the most commercially targeted species of fish. In 2019, 100 tonnes of sole and 92 tonnes of plaice were caught within the District.
Important, and threatened runs of migratory salmon and sea trout make use of the Solent on their way to and from spawning grounds in the Rivers Test, Itchen, Meon, Hamble, and the New Forest streams, whilst eels migrate from the rivers to spawn at sea.
The Solent and Wight area has been highlighted as a shark and ray hotspot and provides a pupping ground for smoothhound, tope and possibly thresher shark. The area also provides a nursery ground for a number of other shark and ray species.
The Blue Marine Foundation are undertaking an Oyster Restoration project in the Solent. The Solent was once home to Europe’s largest self-sustaining oyster fishery, with 15 million oysters landed as recently as 1978. At present the species is severely degraded and there is no commercial fishing. BLUE has been working to increase the larval input into the Solent with broodstock nursery systems. These cages full of adult oysters also act as artificial reefs and provide a home for a host of marine creatures – over a hundred different species have been identified living among and around the oysters in their cages. In collaboration with the University of Portsmouth, BLUE has begun construction of the UK's first restoration-focused hatchery to begin producing larvae in 2021. As part of the large-scale recovery of oyster reefs in the area, BLUE will deploy these reef structures across several locations prior to the 2021 reproductive season.
Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) are tasked with the sustainable management of inshore sea fisheries resources in their local area. The Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority was vested on 1st April 2011 and the District stretches from the Devon border in the West to Sussex border in the East and covers the entire Dorset, Hampshire and Isle of Wight coastline out to 6 nautical miles from baselines. Southern IFCA has information on key species found in the District on their website, including crustaceans, gastropods, bivalves, round fish, flat fish and skates, rays and sharks.
Since 2016 Southern IFCA officers have undertaken, with the assistance of partners, seine net surveys in the estuaries and harbours of the District. Survey areas have included The Fleet, Poole Harbour, Yarmouth Harbour, Newtown Harbour, Christchurch Harbour and Keyhaven. The Environment Agency conduct fish monitoring reports for the Solent and South Downs.
Each year Southern IFCA conduct juvenile fish surveys in Spring and Autumn to survey Essential Fish Habitats (EFH) in the District’s estuaries and harbours. These areas provide important nursery areas for juvenile fish whilst other species of fish utilise the habitat for their full life cycle. Working in collaboration with partners such as the Environment Agency, National Trust, Isle of Wight Estuaries Project, local fishers, and academic institutions a seine net is deployed from the shore at each survey site and each specimen caught is identified, measured, and counted before being returned alive to the sea. This long term data set helps us to understand habitat use by fish species, changes in fish communities over time, ecosystem health. The data has recently been of particular importance in helping to develop evidence packages for the Authority’s Netting Review by providing insights into the value of EFH in the District.
The Southern IFCA list the following fish species in their district.