Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has announced that the Dee Estuary cockle beds will open on 1 July 2016.
This is the ninth year in succession for the cockle beds to open since a licensing system was introduced. The system limits the number of people allowed to gather cockles so that the fishery is managed in a sustainable way to benefit cocklers, birds and the wider environment.
Last year, cockle stocks were low but a vast spatfall (young cockles) appeared late last summer, which means there’s a large numbers of small cockles available now.
As some of the cockle beds are very dense in places, NRW is concerned that larger cockles could be pushed to the surface and start to die-off. To avoid this and ensure enough work for cocklers in the first few weeks of the season, the minimum landing size has been reduced to 18 millimetres from 20 millimetres. This will be reviewed in mid-July.
NRW’s Shellfisheries Officer Rick Prichard said: “Opening for nine successive years is unprecedented and demonstrates that the fishery is being managed in a sustainable way. We are striking the right balance, ensuring enough cockles for the industry, for the estuary’s important population of wading birds and to regenerate the beds for future years.
“Our environment in Wales is the most valuable natural asset we have with the potential to generate more for our economy if we use it sustainably.
“The ongoing success of the cockle beds in the Dee estuary is a great example of that.”
Before the licensing scheme, there was a boom and bust cycle to the industry. When cockle stocks were high, the beds would be cleared out in a matter of weeks by hundreds of cocklers, resulting in the beds being closed for several years.
Now, there are 53 licensed cocklers on the Dee. They have to adhere to a number of regulations such as the type of equipment used, the hours when cockling can happen and a daily harvesting quota of how many cockles can be harvested.