Wash Cockle Fishery 2023: Initial Opening

Eastern IFCA is opening a limited cockle fishery for a period of five days as of 04:45 on Monday 3 July 2023. The fishery will close at 01.45 on Saturday 8 July 2023.

We are unable to confirm at this stage whether a full fishery can open thereafter. This is dependent on securing agreement with Natural England on the size of the TAC.

Eastern IFCA and Natural England are putting every effort into resolving this matter.


Why is Eastern IFCA opening a limited fishery?

Eastern IFCA’s annual cockle surveys identified a limited biomass of adult stock of approximately 3500 tonnes, a little over the conservation threshold for the Wash MPAs which is 3000 tonnes of adult stocks.

Natural England are not currently able to agree a TAC that is greatly in excess of 500 tonnes. The main issue is the proximity of the biomass of adult cockles to the conservation threshold identified by our spring surveys. A contextual factor that adds to NE’s concerns are reports of a higher than usual mortality of oystercatchers that appears to have been linked to starvation and possibly low temperatures as opposed to avian flu.

Recent site visits to the cockle beds in The Wash have, however, identified that die-of because of atypical mortality is occurring at a heightened rate on several beds. To ensure that fishing activity can start as soon as possible, we have secured an agreement with Natural England for a limited fishery with an allowance of up to 600 tonnes.


What next?

We are currently in dialogue with Natural England regarding the approach to calculating the TAC and our proposal to change this from a third of adult stock to a sixth of all stock. For more information regarding this proposal, please see our previous news item Wash Cockle Fishery 2023 Consultation.

The proposal to change the way we calculate the TAC for the fishery received support from a majority of respondents to the consultation. The full consultation outcome report is available here: Consultation Outcome Report: Wash Cockle Fishery 2023

The fishery will not re-open unless we can secure favorable conservation advice, or if we can be sure that some of the initial TAC is left.


Management of the limited fishery

The management measures (exemption conditions) applicable to the limited fishery can be access here: 2023 Initial Fishery Exemption Conditions

Stakeholders intending to fish within the cockle fishery but who have yet to apply for an exemption under the interim management measures are urged to contact the office as soon as possible. We will seek to ensure that all those eligible are issued with an exemption in time for the fishery. No costs are associated with an exemption.



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