Recreational potting

The Isles of Scilly Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA) are responsible for ensuring that fish and shellfish around the Isles of Scilly are managed for all users and sustainable into the future. Recreational or 'hobby' fishing is popular around the islands. There are national and local laws which recreational fishers need to be aware of, as well as aspects of good practice which are important to ensure that the activity is safe and sustainable. Below we have provided some FAQs. A detailed guide to measuring your catch is available to download here .

What is hobby fishing?

Many people catch fish and shellfish for their own use. The most important distinction is that fish caught recreationally cannot be sold. Without a licence to fish commercially it is illegal to sell fish or shellfish, and buyers of ‘first sale’ fish such as hotels and restaurants must be registered.

Good practice or legal requirement?

All fishermen (whether commercial or recreational) can only land fish and shellfish that are above a ‘minimum size’. These sizes are established through national rules and local byelaws. There are also a number of voluntary agreements and good practice which those fishing recreationally should be aware of. Below we explain which are legal requirements and which are good practice.

Legal requirement

Minimum sizes

All hobby fishermen need to adhere to EU minimum landing sizes for fish and shellfish. We have provided some of the more common shellfish and fish minimum sizes below.

Lobsters and crawfish carrying eggs

Under national law, ‘berried’ (egg bearing) female lobsters and crawfish must be returned to the sea so that those eggs can be carried until they are ready to hatch.

In order to protect breeding lobsters, some fishermen voluntarily cut a small ‘V’ shaped notch in one of central tail flaps of a lobster or crawfish that is carrying eggs. Commercial fishermen voluntarily return these ‘V’ notched lobsters (even if they are above minimum landing size) so that they are able to breed. Those fishing recreationally are also obliged by law to return berried lobsters.


Those spearfishing must also comply with the minimum sizes for fish and shellfish.

berried lobster notched lobster

Good practice

Maximum number of pots

Under a voluntary agreement that has been in place since 2012, hobby fishermen should restrict themselves to no more than ten pots.

Safely deploying your gear

It is important that recreational potting is done safely. Pots should not be set in the principal navigation channels and the line between attached to the buoy should be weighted so that it does not present a potential for entanglement in propellers.

Marking your gear

Marking your gear with your name is good practice, and something that is being encouraged across the globe to reduce the amount of gear that is lost and continues to fish, so called ‘ghost fishing’. This also enables other fishermen to return any gear that is found. Marking your gear will soon become a requirement under a new local byelaw, so we would encourage you to start this season.


The Isles of Scilly have one of the last remaining fisheries for crawfish (spiny lobster) in England. The numbers of this species have declined across England over the last 20 to 30 years, but there are some signs that populations may be starting a slow recovery. This species has been identified as a priority conservation species nationally and therefore we have to be very careful about what we take.


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