Cockle Fisheries Update

NWIFCA are currently looking at the logistics of holding an extraordinary TSB under the current government restriction as requested by NWIFCA members to take place before the postponed quarterly meeting on 6th July. The meeting is to consider if the shellfish stocks around Morecambe Bay are sufficient to open a fishery and if it could be possible to open any potential cockle fisheries earlier than the usual date of 1 September. Further details should a meeting be possible will be posted on the website.

This is important because Brexit has ended the EU market for live cockles from cockle beds with class B classification unless further purified / depurated / heat treated.  Cockle beds in Morecambe Bay are classified as B or below. We are very sympathetic to the impact of brexit on the local shellfish industry and are working to mitigate the damage to some extent.

To increase outlets for cockles, in particular canning, we are urgently surveying to assess whether sufficient stock is present to allow a fishery to open earlier than usual. We understand that opening cockle beds (particularly Pilling sands) in July and August when meat content is highest may assist the canning market.

Preparatory work necessary for the decisions to open any potential fishery in the closed season is well advanced:

  1. Survey of Morecambe Bay cockle and mussel stocks to be completed by 4th June.
  2. Analysis of data and reports to be completed by 11th June.
  3. Work will start on drafting a HRA once the data has been analysed.

Although the data has not yet been processed, initial assessment of stock indicates that the only area which may have sufficient stock is Pilling Sands but this is dependent on there be being sufficient total shellfish stock in Morecambe Bay including mussels to ensure any potential fishery is HRA compliant.

Should stocks allow there will be further consultations with Byelaw 3 permit holders on possible options.