How we regulate commercial cockle harvesting in the Dee Estuary

View of tools used to gather cockles

What we do

Natural Resources Wales manages the cockle fishery on the Dee Estuary in a sustainable way by issuing licences to those eligible to harvest cockles. Currently we issue 53 full licences each year, based on how many cockles our stock survey says can be sustainably harvested.

We have been able to open the fishery every year for the last 8 years by:

  • taking enforcement action to protect the cockle beds from illegal harvesting
  • implementing our Dee Estuary Cockle Management Plan
  • consulting with licensees over developments to the Cockle Regulating Order and Management Plan
  • working with other organisations to reduce unsustainable harvesting of the cockles

Why we need to regulate cockle harvesting in the Dee Estuary

Before the Cockle Regulating Order was made in 2008, the Dee estuary cockles had suffered from a series of boom and bust years. Over-harvesting when stocks were plentiful resulted in years when no cockles could be collected.

The 2008 Order allowed us to regulate the fishery to provide a stable income for professional cocklers, to improve safety and to create a sustainable fishery. This has resulted in the beds being opened every year since the Order came into force, and has seen stabilization of wide fluctuations in the cockle stock.

The success of our management plan and its effective implementation has been recognised by the Marine Stewardship Council, which awarded the Dee cockle fishery a certificate of sustainability in 2012. It is only the second common cockle fishery in the world to receive this award.

Read more

Dee Estuary Cockle Fishery Order 2008 and see the map.

Dee Cockle Fishery Several and Regulating Order Management Plan.

The Dee Estuary Cockle Fishery Endorsement Procedure.

The Dee Estuary Cockle Fishery Enforcement and Sanctions Guidance.