The Solent is a mixed sea fishery and the fishing effort varies between a number of different commercial species throughout the year. The inshore waters have an important role as a nursery area for bass, with specific areas identified for protection, and for a range of other fin-fish and shellfish.
Shellfishing is one of the main types of fishery in the Solent. The most significant shellfishery is for the native oyster this fishery this has been in long term decline but is now stabilising. Blue Marine's Solent Oyster Regeneration project is working to restock the Solent. Commercial Clam digging for the Manila Clam also takes place throughout the year.
Government produces an Annual UK fishing industry report which includes detailed figures on the UK fishing fleet, the number of fishermen, the quantity and value of landings, international trade and the state of key fishing stocks. The data shows that 900 tonnes was landed in Portsmouth in 2018, worth £2.8 million, this was down from 1,900 tonnes in 2017.
The Southern IFCA monitor fish stocks throughout the Solent.
The Fisheries Act 2020 replaces the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). It provides a comprehensive regulatory framework to manage commercial fishing activity. Fisheries management is a devolved responsibility with each Administration responsible for implementing the measures needed to manage fishing activity in their waters. It is expected that the implementation of the Fisheries Act 2020 will help appropriately manage the fishing impacts on both target and non-target species and sensitive species. This is expected to lead to an improvement in the status of all stocks.
A certain degree of fisheries management is currently carried out at a regional level in parts of the UK. In England, for instance, ten Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) manage English fisheries out to six nautical miles, under the oversight of the Marine Management Organisation.
The Solent lies mainly within the Southern IFCA jurisdiction, the eastern most part is covered by the Sussex IFCA. The aim of these Authorities is to lead, champion and manage a sustainable marine environment and inshore fisheries, by successfully securing the right balance between social, environmental and economic benefits to ensure healthy seas, sustainable fisheries and a viable industry. IFCA committees are formed of representatives from unitary and upper tier local authorities. The Marine Management Organisation, Environment Agency and Natural England all have a statutory seat. Other representatives are appointed by the Marine Management Organisation and include members with the skills and knowledge to representative the fishing industry (recreational and commercial) and environmental interests.
The Fisheries APPG have published five policy briefs summarising important fisheries topics such as fishing in a changing climate and social and economic stability. These documents act as useful guides and references for anyone with an interest in the UK fishing sector.
There are a number of fishing gear types commonly used across the Southern IFCA District. The intensity of usage of a particular gear type and the construction and implementation of the gear varies with different areas of the District, we have highlighted specific areas of relevance to the Solent. The most common forms of fishing are:
Defra’s revised approach to managing commercial fisheries activity in European Marine Sites (EMSs) requires IFCAs, the MMO and Defra to assess the impacts of fisheries on all designated features and habitats within EMSs in England. This is to ensure that all existing and potential commercial fishing activities are carried out in accordance with Article 6 of the European Union Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC. This approach also applies to Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs).