The Welsh government is carrying out a consultation on the management of cockle fisheries in Wales.
It says the current legislation used to manage public cockle fisheries is inconsistent across Wales and needs updating.
Feedback from previous public consultations on proposals for new cockle management measures has highlighted the need to address a wide range of issues.
At present, individuals applying for a cockle-gathering permit for public fisheries in Wales undergo limited eligibility checks. Not all public cockle fisheries in Wales require a permit, and some have minimal regulation.
The intertidal areas where cockles are gathered are dangerous, and with easy public access,
there are concerns about the safety of inexperienced gatherers, particularly when there are large numbers accessing the cockle beds.
High numbers of gatherers also pose a risk to both sensitive habitats and cockle stocks, as well as having a potentially negative impact on local communities adjacent to the fisheries.
The intention of the proposed measures is to:
- Ensure the protection of the environment and Welsh cockle fisheries
- Modify the permit application system to ensure gatherers work legitimately and safely
- Adapt and simplify the management of all public cockle fisheries in Wales to protect stocks and the environment. This will include the introduction of an all-Wales permit to gather cockles on any, or all, public fisheries in Wales.
Management measures being proposed include:
- An all-Wales cockle permit to gather on any public cockle bed
- Carrying out eligibility checks for cockle permit applications
- Charging an annual fee for cockle permits
- Attaching a number of universal permit conditions to all cockle permits
- Making provision to allow for additional local conditions specific to individual named fisheries to enable adaptive management
- Standardising the personal recreational allowance across Wales.
The proposed measures will apply to all public cockle beds in Wales, amending or revoking previous legislation, and introducing new legislation where necessary.
The Welsh government said: “These measures will introduce a new permit regime in Wales which will underpin the Welsh government’s aims to improve management of the fisheries, stock assessments, the total allowable catch (TAC), and permit conditions now and in the future.
“Once implemented, it is expected the measures will be subject to further review and refinement with relevant stakeholders.”
More information, and details on how to respond to the consultation, can be found here.
Fishery worth £8m a year
Wales has many intertidal areas with highly productive cockle beds.
The first-sale value of cockles gathered in Wales is thought to be about £8m year and provides income for around 250 people.
The Welsh government manages public cockle fisheries throughout Wales.
North Wales cockle fisheries are currently managed under a 2011 order and byelaws of the former North West and North Wales Sea Fisheries Committee. The South Wales fisheries are regulated under byelaws of the former South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee.
The Dee Estuary and Burry Inlet cockle fisheries are currently separately managed under different legislation by Natural Resources Wales (NRW).
Both fisheries are managed under regulating orders, which will continue in force and be unaffected by the consultation.
On the expiry of each of the regulating orders, NRW will decide whether to apply for new orders. Any application will be subject to public consultation before a ministerial decision is taken.
This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.