A nation recognised as a UNESCO Biosphere, the Isle of Man’s enviable diverse landscape makes it the ideal home to a wide variety of wildlife that inhabit our environment, including aquatic life. Manx inland aquatic environments are a national resource available for the public to experience. With fast flowing streams, well-stocked reservoirs and an incredibly accessible coastline, the Isle of Man is located in the path of the Gulf Stream and enjoys mild temperatures, attracting an abundance of aquatic life associated with the warm-water current.
Inland Roles and Responsibilities:
The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) has the statutory responsibility to ensure the inland fishery including the environment is protected and conserved for future generations. The Inland Fisheries Section oversees the protection and conservation of inland fisheries and their environment through regulation, scientific knowledge and sustainable management, working with our community to foster healthy environments.
Defined under the Fisheries Act 2012, Inland waters includes any river, lake, pond, pool, reservoir, watercourse, estuary or passage through which water flows, but does not include any part of the sea. The sea includes the coast up to the mean high water mark of ordinary spring tides.
Fish species regarded as native to the Island include Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), brown trout (Salmo trutta) and their anadromous form, the sea trout, European eel (Anguilla anguilla), brook lamprey (Lampetra planeri), river lamprey (Lampetra fluviatilis), minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus), three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) and nine-spined stickleback (Pungitius pungitius). Of these, brown trout, sea trout and salmon are of recreational importance.
Non-native species include rainbow trout (Onchorynchus mykiss) and coarse fish including perch (Perca fluviatilis), roach (Rutilis rutilis), rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus), roach x rudd hybrids, common/mirror carp (Cyprinus carpio), tench (Tinca tinca) and ornamental koi carp (Cyprinus rubrofuscus).
Working in Partnership
In the management of the fishery, the Department also works in conjunction with other government Departments such as the Department of Infrastructure (DOI) Flood Risk Management (FRM) and Harbours and Highways, statutory bodies such as Manx Utilities (MUA), Ministers, local Commissioners, border controls regarding biosecurity, animal health regulators, stakeholder groups including local recreational fishing businesses, conservation and activity groups such as the Manx Wildlife Trust, clubs, public forums, landowners and the wider public.
As a self-governing Crown Dependency, the Department understands its role in contributing to wider UK and International fisheries management in cooperation with groups such as the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) and the Institute of Fisheries Management, taking account of best available scientific information.
Fisheries Officers have powers under the Fisheries Act 2012 and Inland Fisheries Regulations 2017. This provides protection for all native freshwater fish species and their habitats from damage and detrimental disturbance, while safeguarding a free river passage for fish.
The Island’s Inland Fishery is arguably one of the most used environments by the wider public, commercial industry and government agencies, within this Biosphere. Consequently, fish populations are subject to many challenges to their survival, including anthropogenic climate change. Native fish decline in abundance can be caused by habitat loss, poor water quality, barriers to migration overfishing, mortalities at sea and sea lice. Even with sustainable management measures, inland fish populations are susceptible to catastrophic environmental disasters such as a pollution event, flooding or drought. Such an event poses a real threat towards local extinction.
The Inland Fisheries Section is actively involved in monitoring and managing development in conjunction with Planning and the Environmental Protection Unit, to provide best practice and guidance for the community towards the protection of the fishery. It has powers to help ensure the unobstructed migration of salmon, sea trout and eels from the sea to their spawning grounds, to control the movement and introductions of freshwater fish species and to monitor fishing and fish stocks and undertake the regulation of fishing and the prevention of illegal exploitation.
Several freshwater fish species are considered threatened or endangered. On a global scale, eels have suffered a massive decline in abundance in recent decades and are currently listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN). Stocks of returning adult Atlantic salmon have suffered internationally in recent years. The percentage of salmon surviving the marine phase of their life cycle in the UK having declined drastically to approximately 10% from around 40% in the 1970s.
Inland fish habitat is also under threat from development, impacting species like the brook lamprey as the young bury themselves in silty areas within rivers, feeding on organic matter and detritus over several years. These habitats are thought of as unkempt and targets for the view that they need to be tidied up. Prevention of flooding and development of dams and weirs all alter natural habitats that can impact freshwater fish populations.
Inland fisheries are worth in the region of £2-2.4 million to the Isle of Man's economy. Recreational angling for rainbow trout in stocked reservoirs, brown trout and migratory Atlantic salmon and sea trout, the Island offers wonderful opportunities for freshwater fishing amid stunning scenery to both locals and visitors alike. Inland Fisheries also provides for other international fisheries such as annual exports of disease free rainbow trout eggs to Jersey, ensuring the Department strengthens the Island's move towards a vibrant tourist industry.
A recent external economic review was published in 2021 by Aesculus Consulting to establish the ‘Value of recreational angling in the Isle of Man’.
The annual Inland Fisheries Licence sales income is approximately £70,000 however the review establishes the total expenditure of recreational anglers provides a far greater contribution to the Island’s economy, set out in Table 1.
Table 1: summary of angling population and expenditure estimates
|Angling preference||estimated angling popn (adult)||annual spend per angler||total spend|
|sea (shore)||577||£1296 - £1571||£748k - £907k|
|reservior||488||£931 - £1221||£455k - £596k|
|sea (boat)||151||£3160 - £4026||£477k - £608k|
|coarse||124||£1509 - £1540||£187k - £191k|
|river||89||£1608 - £1924||£143k - £171k|
|Total||1429||£1400 - £1680||£2M - £2.4M|
Our Strategic Approach
It is important for the Department to adopt a strategic approach to undertaking its functions, given the complex and often competing priorities under its remit and responsibilities. You can read more about our Native Freshwater Fisheries Strategy here.