Our Habitat

The Fowey Estuary, a haven to be preserved

The Fowey Estuary is one of the most beautiful and unspoilt estuaries in Cornwall with a rich and varied wildlife, landscape and historic heritage. Natural assets, which have developed over many thousands of years, today exist alongside an extensive range of leisure and commercial activities.

Protecting our Environment

Nature Designations and Marine Planning

The marine environment, just as in the terrestrial, is offered protection by a suite of environmental marine designations to protect important habitats and species. These are generally termed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and the UK has signed up to international agreements that aim to establish an ‘ecologically coherent network’ of MPAs.

The Upper Fowey and Pont Pill Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) protects two geographically distinct areas within the estuary. These are areas that are representative of the estuarine habitats found across the south-west region. The habitats and associated species within the sites make an important contribution to the marine protected areas network. The Fowey estuary contains intertidal mud and sediments, as well as saltmarshes and unusual estuarine rocky habitats which create an environment capable of supporting a diverse range of species.

Marine Planning

Throughout tidal waters in the UK – if you are planning work on a waterside property, installing steps or a pontoon, repairing a harbour wall or erecting scaffolding – you will in most cases be required to first obtain consent through the relevant marine licensing authority.

In many cases, this consent will be in addition to planning permission, landowner consent, permits from the Environment Agency and advice from statutory nature conservation bodies such as Natural England.

In England the marine licensing authority is the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), who have licensing powers under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.

Fishing Regulations

Recreational Fishing

Recreational Fishing in the Estuary is regulated by the Environment Agency and Cornwall Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (IFCA)

Recreational fishing for Bass has specific regulations and most of the Fowey Estuary is designated as a Bass Nursery Area.

Fowey Harbour Commissioners do not allow rod fishing from pontoons in the estuary for the safety of other harbour users.

No nets are allowed in harbour area (FHC Harbour Byelaw 52)

Anglers should be aware of the Bass Regulations within the estuary


Crab Catching

Crab catching is a popular activity, we allow crabbing from the shore linked pontoons but please be aware of other users, especially boats which take priority.
Please keep a close watch over children near water and lifejackets are advisable.

Look after the crabs – view our Crabbing Code


Bait Digging

Bait digging should not take place within 6 metres of any mooring, pile, beacon, hard, causeway, jetty, wharf or similar structure or on the foreshore between signs indicating areas of no digging (FHC Harbour Byelaw 102)

Watching Wildlife Responsibly

The seas around Cornwall offer spectacular opportunities for seeing marine and coastal wildlife but we must watch wildlife in a responsible way to avoid disturbance.

View DEFRA’s Marine & Coastal Wildlife Code 

The Cornwall Marine & Coastal Code Group publish advice for wildlife watching

There are also Codes of Conduct for specific species:

  • If you witness a suspected wildlife crime in action call 999 immediately and ask for the police
  • If you see marine life being disturbed, please call the Marine & Coastal Code Group hotline 0345 201 26 26
  • If you find a sick or injured marine animal, please call British Divers Marine Life Rescue 01825 765546
  • If you find a dead marine animal (including seabirds), please do not touch, call the Marine Strandings Network on 0345 201 26 26


The introduction of Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) can have a negative environmental impact by changing local ecosystems and they can out-compete our native species for space and food.

Some marine INNS species can inadvertently be spread to new areas on the hulls of boats or on equipment and we need your help to prevent this

Please check your boat’s hull and equipment for living organisms, paying particular attention to areas that are damp or hard to inspect. Clean your equipment thoroughly and let it dry completely, this will help to prevent spread.

If your boat is kept in the water, use an appropriate antifouling system and good maintenance to prevent attachment. These organisms can often be encrusting and can cause fouling of water inlets.

Follow the Check, Clean, Dry Principles

The Problem of the Pacific Oyster…

Pacific oysters Magallana gigas are a non-native species that has been introduced to the UK for aquaculture. It is much more commonly found offered for sale to eat than the native or flat oyster. Pacific oysters are more slipper shaped than their flat native cousins, and the edges of the shell have distinctive wavy large frills.
The Pacific oyster had been cultivated in the estuary over the last few decades, but production hasn’t occurred over the last few years. The evidence available at the time that cultivation started indicated that the cool temperatures of UK waters would prevent any spread of this species. However, since its introduction, sea temperatures have been rising and this species has adapted to our climate and spread extensively within the Fowey Estuary and around the coast.
There is concern about the dramatic spread of this species and we have been working with Natural England and Cornwall Wildlife Trust to monitor their distribution and undertake eradication controls in some areas. Over the last couple of years of surveying we have been recording some incredibly high densities, up to 350 individuals per square metre! Obviously at these densities they are excluding and out-competing native intertidal species such as barnacles and limpets for space on the rocky shore which has an effect on the diversity of the habitat. Worryingly we are also finding large numbers of juveniles which indicates a viable, reproducing population and an expansion of their geographical range.
We will be continuing to monitor the spread of this species, so watch this space!

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