Recent discoveries on the limiting efficiency of tidal fences are reviewed, followed by a new theoretical investigation into the effect of wake mixing on the efficiency of ‘full’ tidal fences (i.e. turbines arrayed regularly across an entire channel span). The new model is based on the momentum and energy balance equations but includes several unclosed terms, which depend on the actual (three-dimensional) characteristics of turbine near-wake mixing and therefore need to be modelled empirically. The new model agrees well with three-dimensional actuator disk simulations when those unclosed terms are assessed based on the simulations themselves, suggesting that this low-order model could serve as a basis to analyse how various physical factors (such as the design of turbines) affect the limiting efficiency of tidal fences via changes in those terms describing the characteristics of turbine near-wake mixing. Also discussed is the effect of wake mixing on the efficiency of ‘partial’ tidal fences.