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Freshwater fish directive

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The EC Freshwater Fish Directive (2006/44/EC) was originally adopted on 18 July 1978 but consolidated in 2006. The Directive seeks to protect those fresh water bodies identified by Member States as waters suitable for sustaining fish populations. For those waters it sets physical and chemical water quality objectives for salmonid waters and cyprinid waters. The Directive will be repealed in 2013 by the EC Water Framework Directive.

Regulations and directions

England and Wales


Northern Ireland

Implementation of the Directive

The regulatory authorities for implementation of the Directive in the UK and links to their websites, with contact details for queries relating to implementation of the Directive, are:

Designations in England and Wales

Waters protected under the Directive are formally designated through the issue of a notice. In England and Wales the notice is issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Welsh Assembly Government and it places an obligation on the Environment Agency to ensure that designated waters meet their objectives.

Previous designations in England and Wales are detailed in a notice published in July 1998 (PDF 20KB) and the schedules.

Cyprinid waters (PDF 75KB)

Salmonid waters (PDF 140KB)

New Designations 2003

At the end of 2002 the Commission issued an Article 226 Reasoned Opinion to the UK for failing to comply with the Freshwater Fish Directive. In response, the following freshwaters have been designated in addition to those already in existence:

  • all rivers down to an average natural daily flow of greater than 0.31 cubic metres per second;
  • any gaps between existing designations on rivers or canals;
  • previously designated river stretches to be designated to source;
  • all still waters of surface area greater than 50 hectares.

Defra/Welsh Assembly Government undertook a consultation on the designation of new waters under the Directive. The consultation took place from the 9th of June 2003 until the 8th September 2003.

It was advertised in regional newspapers and key consultees were informed by letter or e-mail. There were a total of 52 responses by letter and e-mail. The link to the Government Response to the Consultation is shown below.

The Partial Regulatory Impact Assessment included within the consultation document has been revised to take account of the further work undertaken by Defra in estimating potential costs and benefits, responses to the consultation exercise and the 2004 Periodic Review of Water Prices (it should be noted that the costs shown in the RIA relating to the water industry will be subject to further change as a result of the ongoing PR04 process).

A Notice (with Schedules) was issued by Defra/WAG on 18th December 2003 to designate over 14,500 km of rivers and canals and 14,000 ha of still waters in England and Wales.

Consultation on New Designations

Further information

If you would like further information not covered in these pages then please contact Edmund Beard. The Environment Agency's web site also contains some information on the Directive: Freshwater Fish Directive (Environment Agency)

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Page last modified: 19 February 2010
Page published: 27 May 2003