Wash Cockle Fishery 2023 Update: Full Opening

Following an initial limited opening of the fishery, Eastern IFCA will re-open the full cockle fishery as of 0415hrs on Sunday 16th of July with a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 2,937 tonnes, minus that which has been taken already during the initial opening.

A limited fishery with a limited TAC was initially opened due to concerns from Natural England about the proximity of the biomass of adult cockles identified in our spring surveys to the conservation thresholds for The Wash. Eastern IFCA undertook additional surveys and as a result of further consideration of growth and recruitment in the adult cockle stock, Natural England have confirmed that a fishery would not have an adverse effect on site integrity if the full TAC of 2,937 tonnes (i.e. 1/6th of the total cockle stock) is taken.


Management of the fishery

The management measures (exemption conditions) applicable to the fishery have been revised and can be accessed here: 2023 Full Cockle Fishery Exemption Conditions

With the intention of optimising the available fishing opportunities Sunday openings are no longer restricted to fishing in Holbeach – all open areas are open on Sundays.

The operating times can be accessed here: 2023 Cockle Fishery Operating Times These are being further considered with a view to determine if additional fishing opportunities can be provided. Any updates will be communicated with stakeholders and published.

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.


Thief Sand Closure Consultation Upcoming

The consultation on the management measures included consideration of closures on the Thief sand. The results indicated an even split between stakeholders in favour of closure over the entire sand, and those in favour of the smallest possible closures over high density juvenile cockles only. On balance, taking survey results into account, it was decided that the full closure was in the best interest of industry as the Thief Sand is likely to be a key source of cockles in the 2024 fishery.

Subsequently, more recent surveys identified that year-0 cockles had grown significantly and were susceptible to cockle mortality and that it is possible that losses on the bed may be significant. Eastern IFCA cannot be certain as to the level of die-off or the impact on next year’s fishery if the bed was opened and as such, the matter requires further consideration. We will launch a separate consultation on this issue in the near future.

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