Changes to European Legislation may have impacted on the information on this page.

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Please contact us to discuss any concerns you may have around your fishing activities.

We are working hard to provide up to date information.


Nets are used widely throughout the Cornwall IFCA district. There are many types of netting activity and a great deal of legislation which defines their use and the fish that can be kept. Different netting methods can be used to fish selectively for certain species but there are numerous restrictions on catch, mesh size, construction and protected areas. If you would like to discuss any of the legislation please contact us.

Within the  Cornwall IFCA district  you must comply with three layers of legislation.

European fishery rules: These are applied to the EU member states and cover a wide range of subjects including minimum fish sizes, fishing methods and gear, fish quotas, logbooks and landing declarations, vessel monitoring systems etc. The rules can all be found within a publication known as the Blue Book which can be viewed on the Marine Management Organisation’s website.

National rules: In addition to EU regulations, there is national legislation applied to fisheries and fishing activities.  These can also be found in the  Blue Book

Cornwall IFCA byelaws:  Locally, there are further fishing restrictions applied under Byelaws made by Cornwall IFCA for managing fisheries within its district.  The byelaws which may apply to a particular fishing method are listed below.

Guidance and advice: If you would like any guidance or advice on the legislation which may affect fishing within the Cornwall IFCA district, please  contact us

The Blue Book covers a wide range of different rules which may affect you however two item of particular interest are catch composition and maximum size for vessels fishing with ring and sein nets.

Catch composition and the Landing Obligation
There are complicated rules regarding the proportion of different fish species you can retain when fishing with nets in the Cornwall IFCA district. You will need to consider the species you are targeting, the type and mesh size of net you are using and which area you are fishing in. Catch composition rules apply to the use of fixed of nets and are defined by European legislation, which can be found in the  Blue Book . Please contact us if you wish to discuss how catch composition rules may affect your fishing activity.  Recently introduced European legislation, the Landing Obligation, will affect which fish you  must retain when undertaking some net fishing activities in certain areas. Please contact the Marine Management Organisation for more information on the Landing Obligation.  

As well as European and National legislation the following Cornwall IFCA byelaws apply within the  Cornwall IFCA district  

Ring nets and seine nets 
The maximum overall length for a boat which is using purse seines or ring nets is 18.28m. 
Purse seine and ring nets byelaw

Minimum sizes for fish and shellfish
A number of minimum fish and shellfish sizes are introduced by Cornwall IFCA byelaws these are in addition to those minimum sizes resulting from national and European legislation. 

Full list of minimum sizes which apply in Cornwall

Specified Fish Sizes byelaw
Crabs byelaw
Lobster byelaw
Crawfish byelaw
Spider Crab byelaw

Prohibition of netting in Cornwall's Rivers and Estuaries
Under a byelaw, which came into force in January 2018, it is an offence to use a net for taking sea fish in any of the rivers or estuaries within the Cornwall IFCA district. It is also an offence to carry a net on board a vessel while engaged in any fishing activity within the rivers and estuaries. The prohibition on carrying or using  nets does not apply to: 

  • Various low impact nets such as a landing net, brailing net, netting which forms part of a trap for fish or shellfish, or a dredge, or any manually operated net which does not exceed 4 square meters.

  • Sand eel seine nets used under a permit issued by Cornwall IFCA.

  • Ebb nets used under a permit issued by Cornwall IFCA.

Click here to download ebb net or sand eel seine net permit application, or returns forms. 

Below are charts of the major rivers where this byelaw is in effect.

Cornwall IFCA River and Estuarine Fishing Nets Byelaw 2017

Fixed Nets  

In nine coastal areas it is illegal to set a fixed net with its headline being less than 3m below the surface of the water.  This netting restriction applies all year round, apart from in an area of Padstow Bay.

Fixed Engines Byelaw

Mesh size of nets
In the Runnelstone and Manacle reef areas, the use of nets with a mesh size of less than 250mm is prohibited. This applies to all types of net.

Mesh of Nets in Parts of District byelaw

St Ives bay gill net temporary closure
In the western part of St Ives Bay, gill net fisheries will be suspended if the number of birds accidently caught in nets exceeds an agreed level. The trigger figure is set every year. For 2019 the figure is set such that all gill nets will be prohibited for 21 days if over 100 birds are caught over a 5 day period. 

St Ives Bay Gill Net Fishery byelaw

Using nets to catch shellfish 

Cornwall IFCA Shellfish Permit

The Cornwall IFCA shellfish permit is available to registered and licensed vessels only. Without a permit you are not allowed to remove more than a maximum of five shellfish per day from the species Lobster, Crawfish, Edible Crab and Spider Crab per vessel. In addition no more than two of these five shellfish can be from the lobster and crawfish species combined. As recreational vessels are not eligible for a Cornwall IFCA Shellfish Permit each vessel is limited to five shellfish per day as described above. 

Lobster, Crawfish and Crab Fishing Permit byelaw

Maximum size for shellfish boats in the district.

The maximum overall length for a boat which is fishing for shellfish in the district is 16.46m.

Shellfish boats byelaw

Retaining parts of a crab.

Cornwall IFCA restricts the quantity of detached crab claws that may be retained from a net to 30kg. This is a maximum weight but the retained catch must also satisfy the European catch composition and landing obligation rules as described by the Blue Book

Parts of Crab byelaw

Please note it is an EU offence to retain parts of a lobster or crawfish as described in the Blue Book .

Berried (egg carrying) lobster and crawfish
Berried crawfish and lobsters are protected and must be returned to the sea as soon as possible.
Berried Lobsters & Crawfish byelaw

Please note it is a national offence to fish for or land berried lobster or crawfish, as described in the Blue Book .

V-notched lobster

V-notched or mutilated lobsters are protected and must be returned immediately to the sea.
Protection of V-notched Lobsters byelaw  

Please note it is a national offence to fish for or land a v-notched or mutilated lobster or crawfish, as described in the Blue Book .

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