Licensing of fish and shellfish farms

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs is responsible for the licensing of all fish farms. This includes marine fish farms, shellfish farms and land based fish farms, using either an enclosed water re-circulation system, a pump ashore system, abstracting water from a bore hole or fish farms on inland waters.

Types of licences

There are 3 types of licence:

  • fish culture licences - compulsory for all fish and shellfish farms
  • shellfish fishery licences - optional additional licences for shellfish farmers
  • marine fish fishery licences - optional additional licences for marine fish farms.

Fish culture licences

It is an offence to operate a fish farm without a fish culture licence or in breach of any conditions attached to a licence and 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 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 gives the licence holder legislative protection of his/her operations.

Apply for fish culture licences

Any application for a fish culture licence in respect of a marine fish farm (excluding shellfish) will be subject to the provisions of the Environmental Impact Assessment (Fish Farming in Marine Waters) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007 where:

  • 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 by order as a National Park or an area of outstanding natural beauty or an area of land declared to be a national nature reserve or an area designated by order as a marine nature reserve or a nature reserve provided by a district council or an area of special scientific interest, that is to say, an area of land declared to be an area of special scientific interest under the provisions of the Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (Northern Ireland) Order 1985
  • a wildlife refuge, that is to say, an area specified in an order made under Article 16 of the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985
  • a scheduled monument within the meaning of the Historic Monuments and Archaeological Objects (Northern Ireland) Order 1995
  • a European site within the meaning of regulation 9 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats, etc) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1995
  • Ramsar sites listed under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat
  • a property appearing on the World Heritage list kept under Article 11(2) f the 1972 UNESCO Convention for the protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage.

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 the DAERA on whether an environmental statement is required in respect of the proposed development.

Download application forms for fish culture licences and find out more about the application process by reading a guide to the fish culture licensing process.

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