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 have an important role as a nursery area for bass, with specific areas identified for protection, and for a range of other fin-fish. The most significant shellfishery is for native oyster (Ostrea edulis), which represents the largest self-sustaining stock in Europe and is of international conservation importance. There is a non-native fishery for hard-shelled clam (Mercenaria mercenaria), which is greatly reduced from previous levels.
The Western Solent is an important area for commercial fishing and specifically includes the Stanswood Bay Several Order Fishery for the native oyster (Ostrea edulis). Annual surveys by Cefas (and previously MAFF) since 1977 have shown a steady decline in the native oyster stocks in the Western Solent, based on annual dredge surveys. The precise factors related to this decline are not known but are undoubtedly complex and are likely to include biological, chemical water quality and fisheries management issues.
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.
Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) are constituted under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and 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.
From 13 December 2014, the rules for labels accompanying all fishery and aquaculture products for EU consumers changed. A pocket guide explains what must appear on the new labels and what additional information can be displayed.