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The RYA looks at aquaculture and its potential to affect navigational safety.

As the number of coastal and offshore aquaculture farms around the UK increases, it is important that the RYA remains engaged with developers, planners and licensing authorities to ensure safety of navigation is given full consideration and is not compromised.

The RYA Position

In summary, the RYA believes that the impact of marine aquaculture developments on recreational boating can be minimised provided developers fully consider a number of key points. These are set out fully in the RYA Position on aquaculture.

Clearly the dangers of collision can be minimised by early consultation, adequate planning and proper navigational risk assessment to identify relevant site specific issues that must be considered. The General Lighthouse Authorities must be consulted for guidance on charting, marking and lighting.

In addition, recreational routes, general sailing areas and anchorages must be identified and taken into account when planning and siting aquaculture developments. Developers will find the RYA UK Coastal Atlas of Recreational Boating a useful planning tool.

You will find links to useful information including the RYA Position on Aquaculture, with information on navigational safety, risk management and mitigation, at the top right hand side of this page.

If you have any questions or comments please email us at

Advice for recreational sailors

Fish farming makes an important contribution to local economies, particularly in remote areas. When well-planned, aquaculture has no adverse impact on recreational sailing and indeed there can sometimes be benefits from sharing facilities.

If you sail in places where fish, shellfish or seaweed is farmed - such as the west coast of Scotland, the Northern Isles and Northern Ireland - you will find useful information below about identifying and sailing around the farms. Depending on where you sail in the UK you may encounter farms for salmon and other finned fish, mussels, oysters and even seaweed.

Be prepared

Fish farms are not always where you expect them to be as charts, even electronic ones, are not always up to date. New fish farm licences can be granted, old ones surrendered and existing farms can rotate their cages between different sites.

As a result, it is prudent to download and carry with you the Notices to Mariners giving chart updates for your cruising area. It is also important to be particularly alert in conditions of poor visibility as marker lights for the aquaculture farms may not always be lit.

Give farms a wide berth

Fish cage anchors tend to extend outwards beyond the cages themselves but are not generally a hazard. It is wise however to give the cages a generous berth, particularly when a workboat is present. In a few places a feed store on land is connected to the cages by pipes near the surface so it is best to avoid passing between cages and the shore unless you are certain there are no feed pipes obstructing your passage.

Fish are generally brought to and taken away from fish farms in “well boats” which are small, fast and manoeuvrable coasters. Keep a good lookout even in remote sea lochs.

Mussel farms often consist of ropes suspended from a cable supported by large grey buoys (grey to reduce the visual impact for tourists) and as the mussels mature the buoys sink lower in the water. It is therefore inadvisable to try to sail through a mussel farm or between the buoys.

Dinghy cruisers and yachtsmen anchoring or coming ashore should note that there are a few oyster farms in shallow water and they may be unmarked. Hazards include steel cages (trestles) or steel rods just under the surface.

Stay alert

It is perfectly safe to sail in waters with aquaculture farms. Good seamanship, particularly with regard to keeping watch, is the key.

Please inform the RYA at about problems you experience with aquaculture farms, particularly if they are not well marked or lit.

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