The Solway supports a diverse mixed fishery, resulting in local fishermen targeting a wide range of fish and shellfish species. Commercial fishing boats work out of Solway ports including Whitehaven, Maryport and Silloth on the Cumbrian shore and Kirkcudbright, Isle of Whithorn and Stranraer on the Dumfries and Galloway coast. The Solway is also fished by boats from further afield including the Isle of Man, Ireland and larger ports to the north and south such as Girvan and Fleetwood. As well as commercial sea fishing by vessels, hand-gathered cockle, mussel and winkle fisheries also operate on the Solway shores.
Fish processing businesses are a major source of employment around the Solway. This includes large processing businesses at Annan and Kirkcudbright, as well as smaller smokehouses on the Cumbrian and Galloway coast. The fisheries sector is an important part of the rural economy for the communities of Dumfries and Galloway and Cumbria.
The former Sea Fisheries Committees in England and Wales were replaced by Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs) under the Marine and Coastal Access Act in 2009. The North Western IFCA jurisdiction extends north to the national boundary in the Solway and its responsibilities include making and enforcing byelaws for the management and conservation of fish and shellfish stocks and conserving the wider marine environment. Ministers have agreed that the vision for IFCAs is one where: “Inshore fisheries and conservation authorities will lead, champion and manage a sustainable marine environment and inshore fisheries.”
In Scotland, regulation of fisheries is carried out by the Scottish Government through divisions of Marine Scotland. Inshore Fisheries Groups (IFGs) have been established around the Scottish coast with the aim of improving fisheries management and giving commercial inshore fishermen a voice in wider marine management. The Solway is covered by the West Coast Inshore Fishery Group which is Chaired by Alastair McNeill.
A Sea Life Sea Food publication provides more information about some of the diverse range of fisheries that take place along the Dumfries and Galloway coast.