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Water suitable for fish-breeding

Directive 2006/44/EC lays down quality criteria applying to water-courses and lakes. Compliance with these criteria is essential in order to maintain or improve water quality and to safeguard fresh water fish species.


Council Directive 2006/44/EC of 6 September 2006 on the quality of fresh waters needing protection or improvement in order to support fish life [See Amending Act(s)].


The quality of fresh water is essential for aquatic life. In order to ensure that fish populations living in water-courses and lakes develop in a balanced way, the European Union (EU) lays down quality criteria applying to designated waters. Compliance with these criteria enables pollution to be reduced or eliminated, and various fresh water fish species to be maintained at balanced levels.


This Directive covers running or standing fresh waters which support or could become capable of supporting fish in sufficient numbers to maintain a natural balance and diversity.

The Directive does not cover waters in natural or artificial fish ponds used for intensive fish-farming.


Member States are required to designate the fresh waters which are to be considered suitable for fish-breeding. These are subdivided into two categories:

  • salmonid waters: waters which support or become capable of supporting fish belonging to species such as salmon, trout, grayling or whitefish;
  • cyprinid waters: waters which support or become capable of supporting fish belonging to the cyprinids or other species such as pike, perch and eel.

Member States may amend the list of designated waters as result of factors that are unknown at the date of designation.

National programmes

Member States shall establish 5-year programmes to reduce pollution or improve the quality of designated waters.

Quality criteria

This Directive determines:

  • physical and chemical parameters applying to designated salmonid and cyprinid waters,
  • guide values and mandatory values,
  • methods of analysis or inspection, and
  • minimum sampling and measuring frequency.

According to these criteria, Member States lay down values to be observed in designated fish-breeding waters. Such limit values may be more severe than those imposed by this Directive.


Provision is also made for derogation from the provisions of this Directive owing to special weather or geographical conditions or to the natural enrichment of water with certain substances.


This Directive replaces Directive 78/659/EEC, without changing the basic provisions.

The Framework Directive in the field of water policy provides for the Directive to be repealed on 22 December 2013.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2006/44/EC



OJ L 264, 25.9.2006

Amending Act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1137/2008



OJ L 311, 21.11.2008

The successive amendments and corrections to Directive 2006/44/EC have been included in the basic text. This consolidated version is only of documentary value.

Last updated: 11.04.2011