Wash Cockle Fishery 2017/2018 now open

The Wash Cockle fishery is licenced and managed through the Wash Fishery Order (1992) by Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (EIFCA). It is a historic fishery and as such is part of the character of towns such as Kings Lynn and Boston. It is an economically important fishery, providing work on fishing boats, and related to processing and distribution of cockles.

The fishery occurs within one of the most highly designated marine areas in the UK. Therefore, it must be managed to ensure that damage does not occur to important habitats and species. It must also be managed to ensure the long term sustainability of the fishery.

EIFCA conducts an annual habitats regulation assessment looking at impacts on sediment, designated bird species and seals. Management measures are required to ensure that the fishery does not negatively impact upon the conservation objectives for the site.

Key management measures:

Fishers operate under a licence and are required to undertake their fishing activities in accordance with the Licence Conditions, Wash Fishery Order Regulations, EIFCA Byelaws and the Code of Best Practice. This is set out in more detail in the ‘skippers pack’ which is handed out to fishers each year.  Please click here for a downloadable version of the ‘skippers pack’.  Key measures for the 2017/18 fishery are as follows:

  • Closed areas are introduced to protect spat (juvenile cockles) and sensitive areas for seals. Which this year includes a seasonal closure on the Hull Sand.
  • Eastern IFCA set a total allowable catch (TAC), this informed by annual stock surveys which are carried out by Eastern IFCA between March and April. The TAC ensures sustainable fisheries by ensuring that sufficient stock remains. It is a requirement for fishers to send in weekly catch returns this allows EIFCA to calculate the remaining TAC and ensure that the amount fished does not go above the set limit. The 2017 cockle stock survey has concluded an available TAC of 7,016 tonnes. This is a significant increase on what is considered a ‘normal’ TAC.
  • The daily quota is set at 3-tonne with no margin for error. This is an increase from the usual 2-tonne daily quota to allow full exploitation of the available TAC. The associated enforcement policy can be found here.
  • Prop washing; many fishers will spin their vessels in tight circles in order to wash cockle out of the sediment, making them easier to catch. In order to facilitate this, fishers are permitted to use a sea-anchor (i.e. an empty bag) to slow the vessel down but must not use any anchor which affixes the vessel to the seabed.  This is set out in the associated enforcement policy which can be found here.
  • Fishers are provided with a Code of Best Practise. This includes measures to ensure minimal damage to the grounds and seals.
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