Oyster fishermen in west Cornwall fear new EU regulations could spell the end of the centuries-old tradition.
The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) said it is committed to a sustainable fishing industry but the current system is in breach of rules.
Consultations under way with Falmouth oysterman could mean stringent safety checks for the boats and punts.
Fifth generation oysterman Tim Vinnicombe said the rules could be the "nail in the coffin" for the industry.
Mr Vinnicombe said: "It's unimaginable that laws and restrictions that could be brought in could actually ruin this fishery and kill it off altogether.
"It could ruin the fleet, because we have many, many old boats built in the late 1800s, and although they are very seaworthy boats, the restrictions and surveys they would have to go through would possibly be out of the pockets of the guys that need to keep these boats going."
He added: "To get these wooden boats up to their standards is going to cost thousands of pounds."
An MMO spokesman said: "Following a review of our domestic legislation, it is clear that the current licensing exemption for under 10 metre unpowered vessels is in breach of European regulations.
"However, we are committed to ensuring the sustainable future of England's fishing industry and will not charge for the licence, in addition to making the application process as quick and simple as possible."
Mr Vinnicombe said the licence charge was just the "scratch on the surface" and it was necessary to look at the "bigger picture".
"There are many things that have come in over the years, we always fear any change. This seems to be so radical it could be the nail in the coffin."
"[The industry] should be nationally important, it's like a treasure, a heritage," he added.