Marine Protected Areas

Medway Nursery Area

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The UK’s largest no-take zone

Working with Rochester Oyster and Floating Fishery, Kent and Essex IFCA is leading the way in marine conservation with the creation of the UK’s largest no take zone in the Medway Estuary.

The new River Medway Nursery Area (Prohibition of Fishing) Byelaw will prohibit any fishing activity in an area of the Medway four times larger than the City of London

Located along the north Kent coast, Medway Estuary encompasses a large area of intertidal habitat. The no-take zone covers 12.1 square kilometres (4.6 square miles) of saltmarsh and mudflat environments that are vitally important to a wide variety of fish. The shallow waters have been identified as a nursery area, as they provide a refuge for fish during their juvenile stages, allowing them to shelter from predators and storms whilst supporting an abundance of prey for them to feed on.

Browse the links to find out more about Medway Nursery No-Take Zone, or find out more about the need for protection here:

What is a nursery area?

How does the Medway Nursery No-Take Zone help juvenile fish?


Medway Nursery Area

Fishing in the Medway

Commercial fishing in the River Medway has a rather rare and unusual history. The river has had a long history of fishing ‘since time out of mind’, and before the 15th century, fishing was carried out on a ‘free for all’ basis. Therefore in 1446, King Henry VI granted a Royal Charter to the citizens of Rochester, giving the city exclusive rights to fishing in the River Medway.

Even with these new rights, feuds and quarrels between local fishermen, which were hampered by the difficulties in enforcing the orders which kept law and order among the free fishermen. This, coupled with the widespread poaching and trespassing from outside boats nearly collapsed the fishing in the river.

Therefore, in 1729, under the reign of King George II, an Act of Parliament was passed to improve the regulation of the fishery. This created the Rochester Oyster and Floating Fishery, a fishing guild that has existed to the present day.

The fishermen of this ancient guild work hard to ensure their river is used sustainably so the traditional fishery can be maintained for generations to come. In order to fish in the river, fishermen must serve a seven year apprenticeship during which centuries of accumulated knowledge will be handed down to them.

After the seven years, the apprentice become a free fishermen of the river, giving rights to fish in the river.

More information on the history of the Rochester Oyster and Floating Fishery can be found by visiting their website here.

Here’s what Shane Hales, ROFF Chamberlain said about the new no take zone and working with Kent and Essex IFCA;

“ROFF are immensely proud to be involved with this innovative project that could potentially help many Thames Estuary fishermen as adult fish spread out from these vital nursery areas. Conservation is the cornerstone of our Fishery and to be able to help protect our juvenile fish stock with the largest no take zone in the country is a massive step forward for our Fishery. We have had great support and advice from the KEIFCA and this alliance can only go from strength to strength.”

Protecting the Medway

Medway Estuary has a history of industry and commerce dating back to the Industrial Revolution. In recent years, many efforts have helped to protect the estuary in the form of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), conserving rare species and habitats with international importance.

Find out more about conservation in the Medway Estuary.

Discover the fish that rely on the estuarine habitats.

Contact us

Follow us on Kent and Essex IFCA on Twitter @KentEssexIFCA

For general enquiries, please email:

Or contact the office:

  • Kent and Essex IFCA
  • Paragon House,
  • Albert Street,
  • Ramsgate
  • CT11 9HD

T: 01843 585310


View a presentation on the importance of saltmarshes and nursery areas