Helping the owner of an unprofitable fish farm


In 2015, we were approached by the owner of a struggling carp farm in West Yorkshire. He asked for help in determining if the site could operate profitably. The site had previously operated as a trout farm but after conversion to a commercial koi carp farm, had struggled to generate sufficient revenue to turn a profit. As a result, the client was considering folding the business.

An inherited  planning condition, that restricted occupation of the property on site to that of fish farm operatives, meant that he could not simply stop trading and carry on living at the address. The client was therefore looking for expert support to investigate the hydrological and hydrogeological setting of the site. He also wanted to investigate whether the fish farming concern was fundamentally feasible.


Our Lead in Hydroecology, Jon Whitmore, managed a project team that firstly developed a hydrogeological conceptual model of the site. This proved that the site was not spring fed as previously thought.

Using the data gathered during development of the conceptual model, and with support from a nationally-renowned expert in cyprinid farming, the project team then conducted an assessment of production capacity and market options. This work demonstrated that the site could only operate at a small profit and only with significant investment.


The work we undertook was submitted to Leeds City Council in support of a planning application. The result subsequently granted the removal of the agricultural planning tie from the residential property on site. The decision notice stated the following:

“Given the provenance of the author of the reports and the inability of the Environment Agency to provide any specialist comment to the contrary, it is considered that the evidence submitted with the application should be accepted”.

This allowed the owner to legitimately live in the property after folding his fish farming concern. Plus he could now sell the property in the future without being tied to an unprofitable fish farm.

Want to know more?

Please contact Jon Whitmore for more information on this project. He has great experience of cyprinid farming from his 4 year period working at the Environment Agency’s coarse fish farm at Calverton, Nottinghamshire.

You can also find out more on our Fisheries web page.

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