Inshore fisheries policy

Northern Ireland's inshore fisheries are managed by the Sea Fisheries Policy Branch. The regulations are enforced by DAERA’s Sea Fisheries Inspectorate.

Inshore fisheries management

Northern Ireland's inshore fisheries fleet comprises  fishing vessels that mainly target shellfish such as brown crab, velvet crab, lobster, palaemon  prawn and nephrops by deploying pots and creels . Some vessels also target scallop and queen scallop fisheries within the inshore region.

Fisheries Management for Northern Ireland Inshore Fisheries

In accordance with the Fisheries Act 2020 the UK fisheries administrations published the Joint Fisheries Statement (JFS) in November 2022.

The JFS sets out the policies of the fisheries policy authorities for achieving, or contributing to the achievement of, the Act’s eight fisheries objectives and forms part of the UK Fisheries Management and Support Framework (the Fisheries Framework). The JFS sets out the ambition of the UK to continue delivering world class, sustainable management of fisheries in line with those objectives and how it will do so. The JFS includes 43 fisheries management plans (FMPs) which set out the policies to secure the long-term sustainability of our fish stocks

FMPs are evidence-based action plans, which will be developed with input from industry and other stakeholders.  They will set out a range of policies – based on scientific evidence – that detail how fishing is managed, by stock, fishery, or location.  FMPs are based on best available science, fisher experience and policy objectives through participation of key stakeholders.  This will include fishermen, researchers and regulators.

DAERA is responsible for the preparation and publication of the Northern Ireland Inshore Fisheries Management Plans. To assist with developing these plans DAERA has established two working groups, one to look specifically at crabs and lobsters and the other to cover scallops (king and queen) and periwinkles.

As part of the process for developing the FMPs DAERA and Seafish are planning stakeholder engagement events in late 2023.

For further information on the NI inshore FMP contact DAERA on

Current Minimum Conservation Reference Sizes (MCRS)

Minimum Conservation Reference Sizes (MCRS) are important management measures in an effort to having sustainable fisheries. In Northern Ireland the existing MCRS for key commercial shellfish species is as follows:

  • Edible (Brown) Crab           150mm
  • Velvet Crab                          65mm
  • Lobster                                 87mm
  • King Scallop                        110mm
  • Queen Scallop                     40mm
  • Whelk                                    45mm

Conservation Measures for Brown Crab

In recent years DAERA has introduced additional conservation measures for the brown crab fishery through the Edible Crabs (Conservation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 . This includes a prohibition on landing berried (egg-carrying) crabs, detached crab claws and soft-shelled edible crabs.

Northern Ireland Inshore Fisheries - Delivering a Sustainable Future

In March 2014 the Department  produced an inshore fisheries strategy (“Northern Ireland Inshore Fisheries: Delivering a Sustainable Future”) that provided a strategic focus for the inshore sector for a five year period.

The key proposals within the strategy are:

  • the formation of an Inshore Fisheries Partnership Group to increase stakeholder participation in management decisions and their involvement in promoting the long-term sustainability of inshore fisheries
  • greater use of technology to allow better mapping of fishing activities and areas, improved monitoring and control
  • addressing data gaps on key inshore stocks and species

The strategy sought to address the challenges facing the inshore sector through a number of key themes and work streams, namely:

  • governance through partnership
  • data for decision making
  • effective compliance
  • improving information, communication and technology
  • enhancing economic returns
  • safer fisheries

Inshore Fisheries Partnership Group

The Inshore Fisheries Partnership Group was established in 2015 and clarifies the respective roles and responsibilities in relation to developing policy and management measures in relation to the Northern Ireland inshore fishing industry.

Membership of the Partnership reflects, as far as possible, a cross-section of expertise including members of the fish catching and processing sectors, DAERA’s Fisheries Policy and Fisheries Inspectorate, AFBI Science Service, Seafish and the environmental sector.

Fisheries Management in Marine Protected Areas in the inshore area.

In January 2023 DAERA introduced the Marine Protected Areas (Prohibited Methods of Fishing) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2022 to protect the marine features within the respective sites in the Northern Ireland Marine Protected Area Network.

These sites are:

  • Carlingford Lough Marine Conservation Zone;
  • Murlough Special Area of Conservation;
  • Outer Belfast Lough Marine Conservation Zone;
  • Rathlin Island Special Area of Conservation and Marine Conservation Zone;
  • Red Bay Special Area of Conservation;
  • Skerries and Causeway Special Area of Conservation;
  • Strangford Lough Marine Conservation Zone restricted area;
  • The Maidens Special Areas of Conservation; and
  • Waterfoot Marine Conservation Zone.

The Regulations protect the marine features within the respective sites through the prohibition of fishing using demersal fishing gear (and in some sites the use static fishing gear (e.g. pots/creels)

Fisheries management in scallop enhancement sites

The Scallop Enhancement Sites (Prohibited Methods of Fishing) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2022  provide protection for sites that have been identified as suitable for King scallop stock enhancement measures. The regulations prohibit fishing for sea-fish by demersal mobile fishing gear or diving for scallops within the Northern Ireland inshore zone at scallop reseeding sites at Ballyquintin, Drumfad Bay, Roaring Rock and Whitehead.

Strangford Lough

Strangford Lough is one of Northern Ireland's Natura 2000 sites, along with other sites such as Rathlin Island.

The Strangford Lough (Sea Fishing Exclusion Zones) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2012  offer total protection to communities of Horse Mussel (Modiolus Modiolus) from sea fishing.  No sea fishing by any sea fishing boat within two specified zones is permitted below a depth of 10 metre chart datum. These restrictions do not prevent fishing by rod and line.

Recreational potting in Northern Ireland

In 2008 regulations were introduced to place restrictions on unlicensed fishing for crabs and lobsters. 

If you are a recreational fisher, you must not:

  • Land, bring to land or retain on board a boat more than five crabs and one lobster per boat per day
  • Use more than five pots
  • Take on board a boat pots on behalf of anyone else
  • Use a stock cage

Recreational sea angling in Northern Ireland

As part of the Department’s  work in progressing an inshore fisheries strategy, the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) conducted an online survey seeking stakeholder opinion on recreational sea angling in Northern Ireland.  

The survey focused on the fishing habits of recreational sea anglers, the locations fished and species targeted.  


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