The Solent Forum

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Shellfish Waters and Bivalve Harvesting Areas in the Solent
Shellfish Waters and Bivalve Harvesting Areas in the Solent
Shellfish Waters and Bivalve Harvesting Areas in the Solent


Water quality is critical to the health of fisheries. It impacts the abundance, location, and size of fish, all of which can affect costs, fishing effort, and revenue. Poor water quality can directly harm or even kill fish, change the makeup of the fishes’ surroundings, kill off sources of food or cause plant or algae overgrowth that starve the fish of oxygen. Because of their proximity to coasts, nearshore fisheries are the most vulnerable to the acute impacts of water pollution.

Algal Blooms and Shellfish

At certain times of the year naturally occurring algae in the sea can give rise to blooms. Algae in these blooms can produce potent biotoxins. These can accumulate in filter-feeding bivalve molluscs and sometimes in other shellfish, such as grazing gastropods. Eating shellfish contaminated with marine biotoxins can pose risks for those consuming the food, and for saleability by the seafood industry. Cefas is assisting a number of Food Safety Authorities and local food enforcement authorities in safeguarding public health by co-ordinating and delivering the testing required under national biotoxin monitoring programmes. The results of the biotoxin and phytoplankton monitoring programmes are published weekly.

Shellfish Water Protected Areas

Shellfish Water Protected Areas seek to protect or develop economically significant shellfish production. Good water quality is crucial for the production of high-quality shellfish. These areas can be impacted by pollution from various sources, such as runoff from agricultural land or discharges from sewage treatment works. The Food Standards Agency classify a production area according to the levels of E. coli detected in shellfish flesh. This determines the treatment required before Live Bivalve Molluscs (shellfish) may be marketed for human consumption.

Ghost Gear

Ghost gear refers to fishing gear that has been abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded, and is a harmful form of marine debris. It is a problem as it continues to ‘fish’ without being harvested, as well as contributing to marine plastic pollution. Every year, it is estimated that up to 30% of harvestable fish are caught in ghost gear. This gear will also further break down into microplastics which can be ingested by aquatic organisms.

Solent Context and Issues

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. The Solent's shellfisheries include native oysters, Pacific oysters, Manila clams, American hard-shell clams, native paloure clam, cockles and king scallops. The most significant shellfishery is for the native oyster, but this has been in long term decline. The Southern IFCA monitor fish stocks throughout the Solent.

Shellfish Water Protected Area in the Solent can be found in the following locations:

Please see the Food Standards Agency classification list for specific site detail.


The Global Ghost Gear Initiative is a cross stakeholder alliance of fishing industry, private sector, corporates, NGOs, academia and governments focused on solving the problem of lost and abandoned fishing gear worldwide.

Blue Marine Foundation (BLUE) has been undertaking a SAFEGEAR project, which analysed the scale and severity of ghost gear and developed an AIS beacon to tackle it. The aim of the project is to make the SAFEGEAR beacon available to fishers through grant funding and reduce plastic pollution.

The GLAUKOS project will develop bio-based textile fibres and textile coatings – with a particular focus on fishing gear and clothing. It will develop polymers mainly consisting of bio-based building blocks. This material can influence degradation parameters, such as light-sensitivity and susceptibility to (bio)hydrolysis.

A new Fish&Click app has been developed as part of the INdIGO project to produce an inventory of lost fishing gear found at sea or on the shore. To take part when you go for a walk along the coast or go out to sea, keep your eyes and your smartphone open; if nets, traps, ropes, lines, anchors or buoys get in your way, log them at: or go to the mobile application


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