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How to apply for orders to set up a private shellfishery or manage a natural shellfishery with powers to restrict fishing rights and issue licences.

First published:
8 June 2021
Last updated:


Shellfish farming, known as aquaculture, contributes £4 million annually to the Welsh economy. It employs some 40 full time workers or their equivalent. To support this activity under the Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act 1967 orders known as Several Orders and Regulating Orders may grant exclusive fishing or management rights within a designated area.  

Fishery Orders can have important implications for other parties. Therefore, applications for new orders are thoroughly assessed as part of a formal procedure which must be followed to ensure all views are considered. This guide explains how the orders work to control shellfisheries and provides details of the application process.

Fishery Orders

The Welsh Ministers can make orders to encourage the establishment and improvement of private shellfisheries and to improve the management of natural shellfisheries. There are two types of order:

  • Several Orders, which are granted for setting up or improving private shellfisheries
  • Regulating Orders, which give the right to manage exploitation of a natural shellfishery

Orders restrict fishing rights in a specific area of the sea or tidal waters in Wales. They cover one or more named species of shellfish and are granted for a set period.

Although both types of order can be made for up to 60 years, 10 to 20 years is more common for Several Orders and 20 to 30 years for Regulating Orders.

Which species can be covered by an order

Both Several Orders and Regulating Orders can cover one or more of the following shellfish species:

  • oysters
  • mussels
  • clams
  • cockles
  • scallops
  • queen scallops (‘queens’ or ‘queenies’)
  • crabs
  • lobsters

Orders can also cover other types of molluscs and crustaceans if specified.

Several Orders

Once you have a Several Order you become the legal owner of the shellfish species covered by the order within a specified area. You then have the exclusive right to:

  • take the named shellfish species from the specified area
  • create and maintain shellfish beds
  • collect, move or deposit shellfish within the specified area

It is an offence for anyone else to

  • disturb or injure the shellfish
  • interfere with the shellfish beds or the fishery itself without authorisation from the order holder

Several Orders normally place restrictions on general fishing practices in the area to prevent damage to the named species. They may also place conditions and restrictions on the order holder. For example, by specifying the shellfish harvesting methods that may be used.

Legal requirements for shellfish farms

If you intend to set up a shellfish aquaculture production business you will need to apply for authorisation before any development takes place. All fish and shellfish farms in the UK must be authorised to help prevent the introduction and spread of infectious diseases.

In Wales, the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) will advise you on the specific requirements you must meet for authorisation. They will inspect your site before production starts and, if everything is satisfactory, they will authorise your shellfish farm.

Once your shellfish farm is authorised you will have to meet certain standards. These include mandatory record keeping and adequate bio-security measures. You can find out more in the guide on fish and shellfish farm authorisation and registration. Your record keeping must include details of all movements of shellfish to and from your registered site.

To make sure your shellfish farm remains disease free, inspectors will carry out checks and take samples on a regular basis.

Regulating Orders

A Regulating Order gives you the power to regulate and restrict fishing for, dredging or otherwise taking shellfish covered by the order within a specified area. If you have a Regulating Order for a natural shellfishery you can:

  • issue licences to others allowing them to take shellfish within the designated area
  • set conditions and restrictions that licence-holders must observe when they take shellfish
  • manage the shellfishery
  • exclude unlicensed people from the shellfishery

It is an offence for an unlicensed person to fish for, dredge, or take shellfish from the designated area.

Applying for an order

Several Orders and Regulating Orders restrict the public right to fish in certain areas. It is important they are carefully considered before being given. To protect the rights of anyone who has an interest in an area under consideration, all applications for an order must follow a formal procedure. For this reason it can take up to two years for an order to be granted.

In Wales, applications must be made to the Welsh Government.

Before you apply

Before you apply for an order you need to find out if anybody holds one of the following private rights over the sea shore:

  • a right of fishery - which may be granted by special Acts of Parliament, Royal Charter or similar mechanisms
  • a right to carry on another activity

You will need the consent of these parties if you want to apply to create a shellfish order.

Consulting with other interested parties

It is a good idea for you to consult with other parties affected before an order is given. This can help you reduce the chances of objections being raised. Some examples of parties that might have an interest in an area covered by a proposed order include:

  • people who fish there on a commercial or recreational basis
  • other sports and recreational users
  • navigation and harbour authorities
  • Natural Resources Wales
  • the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Submitting a management plan

When you submit an application for a Several Order or a Regulating Order you will also need to provide a draft management plan. This must show what your intentions are for the area and for the species covered by the order over a five-year period.

Formal procedure

When you apply for a Several Order or a Regulating Order you must follow a formal procedure to make sure your application is considered fairly. You will be responsible for any costs associated with your applications. These include environmental assessment and advertising costs.

You must complete all relevant parts of the application documents, making sure you give a full answer to each question and providing additional information which you feel will assist with your application.

If we have to request further information from you this will delay the processing of your application.

If we don’t receive all of the required information we will not be able to process your application.

In Wales, the formal application procedure involves the following steps:

  1. Applicant completes and submits an application form along with:
    form of information
    a five-year draft management plan
    written consents from owners of rights
    two copies of the latest Admiralty chart of the area
    company or corporate details if applicable
    an environmental statement if required
  2. Preliminary consideration by Welsh Ministers to decide whether the application should proceed further. At this stage the practical and commercial potential of the proposal is considered, as well as any legal obstacles, and conservation issues.
  3. Applicant receives either a notification of rejection, including reasons for this, or a notification of preparation of a draft order.
  4. Officials send the draft order to other government departments and interested bodies for comments.
  5. Officials assess the comments and make any amendments to the draft order, a copy of which is then sent to the applicant for checking.
  6. The draft Order must be advertised for a period of one month. Advertising is the applicant’s responsibility and must meet certain requirements.
  7. Welsh Ministers receive any written objections and there is an opportunity for the applicant to resolve these.
  8. Arrangement of a public inquiry, if necessary, to examine any significant objections that have not been withdrawn. An inspector will be appointed by the Welsh Ministers
  9. Welsh Ministers will consider the outcome of the consultation or public inquiry and make an announcement of the decision on the Order.
  10. If the decision is made in the applicant’s favour, the applicant will place an advertisement of the order in the local media including details of when it comes into force.
  11. Officials will arrange the printing of the order. A copy of the Order and map of the area showing the limits of the fishery must be available at the applicant’s office for anyone who wishes to see it.

The formal procedure must be followed in all cases, meaning that an application can be a lengthy process. It may take up to two years to obtain an order.

Grantees of both Several and Regulating Orders must also provide Welsh Government with annual returns, detailing activity in the fishery on a yearly basis.