New basis for bird food calculation allows threatened fishery to go ahead

The Wash cockle fishery, which initially opened on 3 July for a limited five-day fishery with a TAC of 600t (Fishing News, 13 July, ‘Wash cockle fishery reopens – for five days’) has now reopened with a TAC of 2,937t.

This higher figure is similar to the TAC last year – when the fishery almost didn’t open at all because of a misplaced decimal point in the bird surveys – though still lower than the average for the last decade.

It is based on a new – for the Wash – approach of calculating one-sixth of the total estimated cockle stock, as opposed to the previous one-third of the estimated adult stock.

This new approach is something the industry has been seeking for a long time because, with Eastern IFCA’s cockle surveys being done each spring and the TAC having previously been based on the adult stock at that point, no account was being taken of growth rates which would raise much of the juvenile stock to adult size during the course of the summer.

It has long been an industry contention that unfished beds then saw cockle densities which, with the settling of another year’s spat and its subsequent growth, saw adult cockles pushed out of the sand to contribute to the die-off that has been a feature of Wash cockle stocks in recent years.

A number of questions remain, but for now the cockle fishery, which is the main earner for the Wash fleet, has opened, and the fleet remains in work.

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

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