Wash Fishery Order 1992 Mussel Relaying Fishery: consultation

The 2021 intertidal mussel surveys in The Wash concluded it would be possible to open a mussel re-laying fishery on certain beds. Click here for a summary of mussel stock levels and distribution.  As such, we would like feedback from Wash Fishery Order 1992 Licence Holders and skippers on proposed management measures relating to the potential fishery.  Your feedback will inform the development of the measures and inform discussion with the Authority at the next Authority meeting in March 2022.


A summary of key management measures and further information is set out below.  Please return any comments you wish to make to the Eastern IFCA Office by Friday 25th February.


Key Management Measures for the 2022 Re-laying Fishery


Type of fishery

The proposed fishery is a mussel re-laying fishery only.  It is proposed that mussels removed from this fishery must be re-laid within the Wash and North Norfolk Coast SAC i.e. within the Wash and east along the North Norfolk Coast up to Weybourne.


Opening / closing of the fishery 

It is proposed that the fishery will open in the spring.  We would like your feedback on the most appropriate opening date. It is recommended that the fishery closes on the exhaustion of the TAC or on 31st August 2022 to allow for annual mussel surveys; whichever is soonest. 


Open areas and maximum exploitation levels

The stock assessment has indicated that adult mussel stocks are not currently able to support a fishery.  As such it is proposed that only beds with predominantly ‘juvenile’ mussels (less than 45mm) are open to the fishery.  These beds are outlined in Table 1, which also shows the maximum weight of mussels that could be taken from each before their average densities fell below the 25 tonnes/hectare threshold. This threshold is in place to ensure that the density of mussels does not fall below that which would reduce the longer-term viability of the bed.


The 2008 Wash Shellfish Polices[1] would allow a relaying fishery with a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 1,376 tonnes. However, while the beds could, theoretically, support a fishery of this size, in practice it is likely to cause damage to the beds that could take several years to recover from. Long-term damage to mussel stock levels could have knock-on effects to future cockle fisheries due to the importance mussels play in contributing stocks to the Bird Food Model used when opening the cockle fisheries. We therefore propose that a smaller TAC of 980 tonnes should be adhered to, to mitigate the risk to future cockle fisheries and avoid long-term damage to individual mussel beds whilst allowing the fishery to open. The recommended TAC allocated to each fishery would be as follows: 900 tonnes for the dredge fishery and 80 tonnes for the hand-worked fishery. This TAC has been calculated based on levels each bed could support without incurring long-term damage.


– table showing beds proposed to be opened in the 2022 mussel relaying fishery and associated maximum exploitation level. 

Bed Maximum



maximum harvest

Shellridge 39 39
Holbeach 274 150
Herring Hill 247 100
Trial Bank 214 100
Blackshore 511 500
Skate Run 91 91
TOTAL 1,376 980



General Management Measures for the 2022 Re-laying Fishery


The proposed management measures are broadly the same as was the case for the 2019 mussel re-laying fishery.  It should be noted that the proposals are the subject of ongoing discussions with Natural England and may change to ensure the protection of the Wash Marine Protected Areas. Links to proposed licence conditions for both the dredge and hand-worked fisheries are at the bottom of this page.


Fishing notifications and daily catch returns

Some of the smaller beds can potentially be exploited to their maximum level over a single tide and as such Eastern IFCA will require daily catch returns.  It is proposed that catch returns are provided to Eastern IFCA via text or e-mail within 2 hours of the high tide over which they were fished.  The required information will be the vessel name and PLN, the bed fished, the amount of mussel taken and the fishing method (i.e. dredge or hand-work).


We will assess the remaining mussel on each bed daily and contact fishers regarding bed closures prior to the next day’s fishing.


In addition, it is proposed that fishers notify Eastern IFCA of their intention to fish a minimum of 12 hours prior to undertaking such fishing.  Such notification can also be made via text or e-mail and must include the name of the vessel and its PLN, the intended target bed and fishing method.


To enable this form of communication, Licence Holders, Nominated Representatives and Nominated Deputies will be required to provide a valid mobile telephone number or e-mail address.


Days of operation

It is proposed that the fishery is open during Monday to Fridays.  This is intended to align with the industry preference during cockle fisheries.  We may review this if uptake of the fishery is greater than expected


Fishing gear

The only fishing gear permitted within the dredge fishery is a ‘mussel dredge’ and such must not have any mechanism or device which enables continuous lift of catch to the vessel (i.e. suction dredges cannot be used).  To be used, a certificate of approval must be issued in relation to the dredge.  Certification will only be issued where officers have inspected the dredge and certified that it meets the requirements of the WFO Regulations set out below:


  • Regulation 3 (3) – The maximum width (inside opening) of 1 metre; and
  • Regulation 3 (4) – The maximum number of dredges is two.


It is prohibited to modify the gear in any way after a ‘certificate of approval’ has been issued.


Carrying capacity

It is prohibited to use a vessel in the fishery unless the hold of the vessel has been measured by officers and a ‘certificate of hold inspection’ has been issued.  It will also be prohibited to modify the hold in any way after the certificate has been issued.


Dual fishing prohibition

It will be prohibited to fish for mussels within the Regulated mussel relaying fishery on the same calendar day as having fished for mussels in any other fishery including within Wash Fishery order lays.


Welland Wall Hand-worked Fishery

The 2021 mussel survey found the mussel biomass on the Welland wall had increased and will continue to support a fishery.  The cracks and crevices between the rocks of the man-made wall provide shelter for mussel seed to settle and protection for juveniles. This protection, and the fact that the rocks cannot be dredged, mean overfishing is unlikely to occur, and as such it is proposed that the Welland Wall Fishery is maintained in its current open condition.


A link to proposed licence conditions for the Welland Wall fishery is at the bottom of this page.  These have been amended to reflect changes in the WFO Regulations.


Please note that mussels less than 45mm in length can only be removed from Welland Wall to relay in another fishery within the Wash and North Norfolk Coast SAC.



  1. Summary of stock levels and distribution
  2. Proposed open areas
  3. Proposed Licence Conditions (Dredge Licence)
  4. Proposed Licence Conditions (Hand-work)
  5. Proposed Licence conditions (Welland Wall)
  6. Questionnaire


[1] https://www.eastern-ifca.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/WFO_Shellfish_management_policies_2008.pdf






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