The Northern Ireland aquaculture sector is a valuable, niche industry, consisting of a range of species-specific businesses which continue to develop. The main shellfish species cultivated are mussels (Mytilus edulis) and pacific oysters (Magallana gigas), although a small quantity of native oysters (Ostrea edulis) are also grown. The main finfish species cultivated are salmon (Salmo salar), rainbow trout (Oncorhyncus mykiss) and brown trout (Salmo trutta).
Licensing of Aquaculture Establishments
Under the Fisheries Act (Northern Ireland) 1966, as amended, DAERA Marine and Fisheries Division is responsible for the licensing of fish farms and shellfish farms. This includes the granting of fish culture licences, shellfish fishery licences and marine fish fishery licences. The Division is also responsible for the registration and approval of aquaculture establishments under Regulation (EU) 2016/429 (The Animal Health Law).
Types of licences
There are 3 types of licence:
- fish culture licence - compulsory for all fish and shellfish farms;
- shellfish fishery licence - optional additional licence for shellfish farmers; and
- marine fish fishery licence - optional additional licence for marine fish farms.
Fish culture licence
It is an offence to operate a fish farm without a fish culture licence. In these circumstances, a person would be liable on summary conviction to a maximum fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale (currently £2,500).
Shellfish fishery licence
A shellfish fishery licence is an optional licence which gives the licence holder the exclusive right to cultivate a particular species of shellfish within a specified area (and so the exclusive right to take that shellfish from the area). At the same time, it gives the licence holder legislative protection of his/her operations.
Marine fish fishery licence
A marine fish fishery licence is an optional licence which gives the licence holder the exclusive right to cultivate a particular species of marine fish within a specified area (and so to take that marine fish from that area). At the same time, it gives the licence holder legislative protection of his/her operations.
How to Apply for a fish culture licence
Any application for a fish culture licence in respect of a marine fish farm (excluding shellfish) will be subject to the provisions of:
- The Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2007; and
- The Marine Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Amendment) Regulations 2017.
- any part of the proposed development is in a sensitive area; or
- the proposed development is designed to hold a biomass of 100 tonnes or greater; or
- the proposed development will extend to 0.1 hectare or more of the surface area
A 'sensitive area' is defined as an area designated under various legislation and in Northern Ireland include:
- Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
- Ramsar Sites
- Marine Ramsar sites
- European Marine Sites - Marine Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas
- Special Areas of Conservation for Harbour porpoise
- Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs)
- Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs)
- Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)
- Special Protection Areas (SPAs)
- Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs)
- Nature Reserves (NRs)
- World Heritage Sites
The cost of preparing an environmental statement shall be borne by the applicant. Prior to submitting a licence application, you are therefore advised to seek the views of DAERA on whether an environmental statement is required in respect of the proposed development.
To find out more about the application process you can access a guide to the fish culture licensing process as well as application forms for fish culture licences here.
For further information contact:
Mr John McGuigan
Tel: 028 44 618044