Dee Estuary Cockle Fishery Order (2008) management plan
This Management Plan relates to the Dee Estuary Cockle Fishery (the Fishery).
From 1 April 2013, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and the Environment Agency became two separate Grantees with responsibility for the management of the Fishery pursuant to the Dee Estuary Cockle Fishery Order 2008 (The Order). NRW became the Grantee in relation to that area of the Fishery located in Wales with the Environment Agency the Grantee for that area of the Fishery located in England. As Grantees under The Order, NRW and the Environment Agency have powers to regulate the Fishery until 30 June 2028. To ensure continuity of the management and regulation across the Fishery, NRW and the Environment Agency have agreed that NRW will take the lead on day to day management and regulation of the whole of the Fishery. This Management Plan therefore identifies NRW’s aims and objective in its management of the Fishery and sets down detailed arrangements for its management of the Fishery for cockles (Cerastoderma edule).
This Management Plan will be subject to an overall review at intervals of not greater than 5 years.
Management aims and objectives
NRW’s overall aim in its management of the Fishery is to develop a thriving cockle fishery in the Dee Estuary which supports, protects and enhances the needs of the community and the environment upon which it depends. The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 includes a requirement for NRW to embed the principles of sustainable management of natural resources throughout the way we work. Through applying these principles we can maximise our contribution to the well-being goals and pursue the sustainable management of natural resources. Such a thriving cockle fishery is an important aspect of The Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) (England and Wales) Regulations 2016 under which the Dee is a Shellfish Water Protected Area.
In order to achieve this aim, NRW has identified and will pursue, through its management of the Fishery, the following 3 objectives:
Objective 1: to deliver and maintain a sustainable fishery which can provide regular income to licensees.
Objective 2: to avoid adverse effects on the UK’s national site network and local residents.
Objective 3: to improve management, monitoring, regulation and enforcement within the wild fishery.
Geographical description of the fishery
The Fishery is located in the river Dee estuary between north Wales and Wirral. It is defined to the north by a line drawn between Red Rocks, northern most point of Hilbre Island and the old lighthouse, point of Ayr, and to the south by a line drawn at right angles to the training wall intersecting the Flint channel light at 53° 15’ 13”N, 003° 06’ 45”W.
Within the estuary there are currently nine cockle beds in the Fishery, namely West Kirby, Thurstaston, Mostyn, Mostyn Deep, Talacre, Caldy, No.3 Buoy, Salisbury Middle and Salisbury. These beds vary spatially according to spatfall, exploitation sediment changes and other external factors and it is possible that beds may change in the future.
Figures in Annex 1 show the definitive map of the of the Regulating Order, along with the 2020 locations of the cockle beds.
The total area of the Fishery, below mean high water springs (MHWS) on the Definitive Map is 10,656 hectares.
The last review of the Management Plan was in 2015. This version of the Management Plan has been revised to take account of the standardising, as far as practical, of the management practices of the only Welsh Regulating Order Cockle Fisheries (Dee Estuary Fishery and Burry Inlet Fishery) and to take account of new plans and strategies including:
- Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, which requires public bodies to think about the long term impacts of their decisions and work better with people, communities and each other to prevent persistent problems such as health inequality and climate change
- Welsh Marine Evidence Strategy 2019 – 2025, is a collaborative agenda for marine research Monitoring and Analysis
- Welsh National Marine Plan 2019, which forms policy for the next 20 years for sustainable use of our seas.
The Dee Estuary is an internationally important over-wintering site for wildfowl and wading birds and of European importance for its estuarine, mud and sand-flat and salt-marsh habitats and communities. It is designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the EC Birds Directive, a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) designated under the EC Habitats Directive and a Ramsar Site under the International Convention on Wetlands. The Dee Estuary also encompasses Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) designated under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981: Dee Estuary SSSI, North Wirral Foreshore SSSI, Gronant Dunes and Talacre Warren SSSI, Red Rocks SSSI, Shotton Lagoons and Reedbeds SSSI, Inner Marsh Farm SSSI, Dee Cliffs SSSI - and part of the Hilbre Island Local Nature Reserve (LNR).
The Dee Estuary has supported a commercial cockle fishery for well over a century. Following an application by the Environment Agency to the Secretary of State and National Assembly for Wales for a Regulating Order under section 1 of the Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act 1967, the Order was made in 2008 granting the Environment Agency (and now NRW and the Environment Agency) a right to regulate the Fishery for cockles.
The Order relating to the Fishery generally prohibits unlicensed cockle fishing and allows for regulations and restrictions to be imposed (with the consent of the Secretary of State and the Welsh Ministers) which prohibit or regulate cockle fishing. Regulating Orders also encourage long term investment in the Fishery.
Shellfish hygiene monitoring
Shellfish harvesting areas are classified according to the extent of microbial (faecal) contamination as shown by monitoring of coli in shellfish flesh. Treatment processes are stipulated according to the classification status of the area.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has a statutory responsibility for ensuring that monitoring and subsequent classification of cockle stocks occurs. This is conducted in collaboration with the Environmental Health teams at Flintshire and Wirral Councils.
In the event of monitoring results highlighting the need for a closure of the fishery, NRW will follow any closure notices issued by the FSA and suspend harvesting of cockles until the bed closure is lifted. NRW will work with FSA and local councils during any such closures to facilitate the reopening of beds when safe to do so.
Stock assessment surveys and total allowable catch
Stock assessment surveys are normally carried out twice a year in the Spring and Autumn using a standard methodology (Moore 2011). Surveys will estimate the cockle biomass of each year class from each bed within the Fishery.
A Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the opening of the fishery is established each year based on the results of the Spring survey and the food requirements of the overwintering birds of the Dee SPA. Individual bird based models such as the one developed by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) have been universally acknowledged as the most appropriate method to set a TAC. The food requirements of the birds is calculated using the most up to date Bird Food Model.
Once the survey is complete the results are assessed, and the tonnage of cockle is calculated to leave enough food for the requirements of the overwintering birds and for a TAC for the fishermen. The catch returns from the licensees are monitored to see how much cockle is being removed each month in relation to the set TAC. This enables the TAC or daily quota to be amended if necessary to ensure enough food is left for the birds, and that the fishery is sustainable over the long term and provides a living for the licensees.
Following principles of sustainable management of natural resources, NRW will adaptively manage the fishery assessing the need to respond to mortalities, changing size demographics or natural environmental events such as rouching (see Annex 2)
NRW may issue licences under the Order (Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act 1967) in such numbers and to such persons, and operative for such periods, and may authorise the dredging, fishing for or taking of shellfish at such times, in such manner and to such extent as it may determine. This includes the setting of licence conditions, daily and annual quotas and cockle size limits, and the determination of fishing times and areas and methods.
Under the provisions of the Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act 1967 NRW may, with the consent of the appropriate Ministers:
- revise the tolls leviable under the Order
- make or change regulations made under the Order
- adopt or change any policy as to whom, and under what conditions, they propose to issue licences.
Article 4 of the Dee Estuary Cockle Fishery Order, 2008 states that:
(1) No person may dredge, fish for or take cockles within the fishery unless they do so under the terms of—
- a licence issued by the grantee; or
- an authorisation [an endorsement] under article 6.
(2) A licensee must produce a copy of the licence if requested to do so by an authorised officer of the grantee and may not dredge, fish for or take cockles within the limits of the fishery until the licence has been produced.
(3) Paragraph (1) does not apply to any person who—
- takes by hand not more than five kilograms in live weight of cockles from the fishery in any one day for personal consumption; or
- dredges, fishes for or takes cockles in pursuance of provision made under section 3(1)(c) of the Act [the propagation of shellfish].
(4) Schedule 1 (regulations and restrictions applicable to the fishery) has effect.
Restrictions and regulations on harvesting
The following restrictions and regulations apply to the Fishery:
The method shall be restricted to hand-gathering only with a rake head not exceeding 30 centimetres in width.
Cockle beds shall be opened and closed individually depending upon levels of harvesting and survey results (TAC) at the discretion of the grantees, in order to safeguard a sustainable population level.
Only cockles which are retained by a gauge having a square opening of 20 mm along each side of the square can be taken.
A cockle shall be deemed to be removed from the Fishery as soon as it is placed in any container (including bags, sacks and other similar receptacles), trailer, vehicle or vessel.
Sorting and washing of cockles must be undertaken before cockles are removed from the Fishery.
No cockle bags or other equipment or litter are to be left on the beds following fishing.
No person shall engage in any activity which disturbs or damages the Fishery without the prior written consent of the grantees.
No mechanically driven vehicles are permitted on the Fishery without the prior written consent of the Landowner and grantees.
No vessels greater than 10 metres may be used for the purpose of removing or receiving cockles and must be operated solely by a licence holder, except with the written approval of the grantees for the purpose of ensuring the safe navigation of the vessel.
Annual close season shall be from the 1st day of January to the 30th of June following.
No fishing for cockles between one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise.
There shall be a weekly closed period on Sundays unless so directed by the grantees.
The decision whether to open the fishery will be taken in May/June each year, following completion of stock assessment surveys and consultation with the Dee Estuary Cockle Fishery Advisory Group (DECFAG).
A TAC will be established each year based on cropping a scientifically calculated proportion of the available biomass above the ‘giving-up’ density on any one bed on the 1st July. This proportion is likely to be around 30% in most years but the proportion and the “giving-up density” may be varied as the grantees consider appropriate in the interests of maintaining a sustainable fishery, having regard to the stock assessment survey and in consultation with DECFAG.
Fishing will not be permitted during periods when a severe weather order is in effect under section 2(6) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981: closure and reopening of the beds will be in accordance with the guidelines established for the statutory suspension of waterfowl shooting in severe weather.
Except in emergencies or unless otherwise agreed by the grantees, no person may access the fishery for the purpose of dredging, fishing for or taking cockles, or leave the fishery after cockling, except:
at points above mean high water, and at times, which may be designated by the grantees from time to time; and
in compliance with the terms and conditions of any such agreement given by the grantees.
- The grantees shall ensure that any decision regarding designation of access made for the purpose of these regulations is given appropriate publicity in the vicinity of the fishery and to the licence holder.
- The grantees may, in writing, exempt any person from any regulation or restriction if it is necessary for the purpose of preserving, improving, or developing the fishery or for scientific, stocking or breeding purposes.
Dynamic and reactive management of a commercial fishery in the marine environment which will by nature experience conditions that are difficult to predict, is best achieved through the imposition of licence conditions.
NRW will use licence conditions to manage the fishery effectively and efficiently. Examples of the licence conditions issued at the start of the 2020/21 season are shown below.
No licensee shall fish for, take or attempt to fish for, or take or remove cockles from the Fishery except in accordance with the licence conditions and fishing restrictions and regulations.
A licence shall only be issued to an individual.
A licence shall not be transferable, although a temporary endorsement may be granted (see Endorsement guidance in Annex 3).
A licence must be carried by the licensee and be available for inspection at all times.
A valid licence must be produced when requested by a Grantee Officer and the licensee shall not continue to fish for cockles until a valid licence is produced.
Subject to regulation 4 of Schedule 1 to the Order, a licence shall cover the whole of the Fishery.
Each licensee (other than an apprentice licensee) will be allocated an individual daily and/or annual quota based on the total TAC, and following consultation with the DECFAG.
The licensee shall not, except with the prior approval of NRW, transport beyond mean highwater more than their daily quota in the period between 0001hrs and 2359hrs of the same day, or more than their annual quota during the period of the open season.
Information required on a licence shall include a photograph of the licensee, a unique licence number, name and address of licencee and period of validity.
Licences will run annually for the period specified on the licence.
When the beds are open, the licensee shall complete and submit on a monthly basis daily landing declarations. Such declarations shall include the date on which, and beds from which, any cockles were taken, weight (kg) harvested and (where appropriate) buyer details.
No licensee shall fish, take or attempt to fish for or remove cockles from the Fishery unless the licensee has complied with the provisions of condition 10.
Unless prior written authorisation has been obtained from NRW, no persons other than licensees are to be carried on vessels/vehicles authorised for use in cockling, while the licensee is engaged in cockling activity.
Unless prior written authorisation has been obtained from NRW, licensees may not be assisted by any other person except apprentices, in any way, including raking, riddling, bagging, carrying, clearing dead cockle and boat handling.
Licensees operating a vessel must comply with any direction given to them by the Dee Conservancy Harbour Master or the Port of Mostyn Harbour Master.
A licensee may use a jumbo (an implement with a flat base and vertical handle which is used to bring cockles to the surface) to assist hand gathering provided it has a base not exceeding 140 centimetres long and 40 centimetres wide.
A licensee shall not remove cockles from the Fishery other than in landing bags issued by NRW (Landing Bags) directly to that licensee and identified as being so issued by a numbered tag. Licensees shall not transfer Landing Bags, use Landing Bags issued to other licensees, alter or tamper with Landing Bags or otherwise treat Landing Bags in a manner whereby the individual Landing Bag cannot be identified by its numbered tag. A licensee shall upon request by a Grantee Officer make available Landing Bags and the contents thereof for inspection and shall not continue to fish until such landing bags are produced. It is the responsibility of the licensee to ensure that the bags are marked and the markings are visible.
Under the Order, a licence is required to fish for cockles within the Fishery (unless you collect up to 5 kg per day by hand for your own consumption). It is an offence to fish for cockles without a licence. No individual may hold more than one licence for the fishery.
It is the aim of this management plan to allow at least 50 fishermen to participate in the Fishery, on an annual basis. Previously justification for 50 licensees has been based on:
- Total Allowable Catch of between 500 to 2,500 tonnes
- Maximum annual exploitation rate of 50 tonnes per licensee
In 2019 and 2020 the TAC has been over 2,500 tonnes and over 40% of licensees have harvested over 50 tonnes in a season.
At times when NRW considers that the fishery could sustain it, short-term non-renewable licences will be issued at NRW’s discretion.
NRW require that participants in the fishery have the most up to date training and safety certificates prior to accessing the fishery (see Annex 4)
Allocation of licences
Licences are allocated to applicants in accordance with NRW’s published licence allocation procedure (LAP), which can be found in Annex 5. This procedure includes details of the appeals process.
Payment for licences must be made prior to July 1st. No licence will be issued and no harvesting can occur before payment is made.
Separate arrangements apply for the allocation of apprentice and short term non-renewable licences exist; see LAP.
Regulation and enforcement
The principles of good regulation will be adopted in the Fishery. NRW will be transparent, accountable, proportionate, consistent and targeted in its regulatory and enforcement activities. These principles are explained further in NRW’s Enforcement and Prosecution Policy (Annex 6).
NRW will also follow its principles to deliver sustainable management of natural resources through its regulatory approach in the Fishery.
NRW will support licensees’ compliance with the restrictions and regulations in the Fishery through engagement, education and enabling. Should any licensee commit a breach of the restrictions and regulations they will be dealt with in accordance with NRW’s Enforcement and Prosecution Policy.
The full range of enforcement tools will be used to achieve compliance in the Fishery and tackle illegal activity. This includes but is not limited to providing advice and guidance, issuing warnings, offering formal cautions and taking prosecutions.
When deciding on a suitable enforcement response consideration is given to the desired outcome of the response. Actions may be taken to stop an activity, restore or remediate, bring into compliance, punish and/or deter or a combination of all of these.
Public interest factors are considered for each case in determining the suitable responses to offences. These include intent, environmental effect, previous history and attitude. A full list of public interest factors and further details can be found in NRW’s Guidance on Enforcement and Sanctions.
Where a licensee is convicted of an offence, their suitability to retain the licence will be reviewed and if appropriate, Grantees may seek Ministerial consent to cancel the licence.
Licences may be suspended for certain offences at the discretion of NRW.
Stakeholder engagement and communication
The principal mechanism for stakeholder engagement will be the Dee Estuary Cockle Fishery Advisory Group (DECFAG). DECFAG will meet twice a year and work with NRW to inform and develop the management of the fishery.
Membership of the group needs to represent the range of community and regulatory bodies and their views, but not be too large to work in detail together and maintain consistent attendance. NRW will invite people who can show that they represent the views of others, not just individual opinions. The membership list will include up to 9 representatives of the Dee Estuary Licenced Cockle Gatherers, representatives from NRW, and a representative from each of the following organisations: Local Authorities, Environment Agency, North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, Natural England, Welsh Government, Dee Estuary Conservation Group and cockle processors. Other people will be invited to meetings as required.
Changes to any licence conditions, bed closures, payments and general fishery operations will be communicated to all licensees in writing.
Evaluation and monitoring of plan objectives
Objective 1: to deliver and maintain a sustainable fishery which can provide regular income to licencees
This objective will be monitored through:
- Liaison with Dee Estuary Cockle Fishery Advisory Group (DECFAG) to agree the TAC, daily quotas and other management decisions
- Stock monitoring / maintenance of exploitable stock at predicted levels and improve understanding of cockle population dynamics.
Objective 2: to avoid adverse effects on the European designated sites and local residents.
This objective will be monitored through:
- Completing and implementing the latest and most appropriate bird food / stock models available with regard to calculating the TAC
- Ensuring there is no detriment to the achievement of Favourable Conservation Status (FCS) for relevant SAC, SPA and Ramsar features
- Monitoring beds for illegal fishing
- Ensuring access and exit from the Fishery is at agreed points.
Objective 3: to improve management, monitoring and enforcement within the Fishery.
This objective will be monitored through:
- Regulation of the Fishery according to current statutory requirements.
- Use of appropriate resources to improve understanding of population dynamics.
- Application of this Management Plan.
- Ensure regular monitoring of catch and compliance with the Management Plan.
Use the most appropriate stock model to predict food requirements for the birds of the SPA and SSSI, predict effects on the bird populations of different management scenarios, and recommend methods for setting sustainable TAC.
Annex 1 - Definitive map
Definitive map under the Dee Estuary Cockle Regulating Order 2008
Location of beds within the Dee Estuary 2020
Annex 2 - Rouched cockle procedure
The following steps outline the procedure for reporting and substantiating large scale rouching events (where large quantities of cockles, at high densities, are pushed to the surface) following which NRW may temporarily suspend or relax licence conditions to facilitate the removal of rouched cockle.
- Rouched cockle events are reported to NRW by a licence holder.
- NRW will endeavour to substantiate rouching and establish quantity and location, preferentially by site attendance the same or following day. Where this is not possible alternative ways of confirming the occurrence may be used.
- NRW will review the catch return data to date against the TAC and the estimated volume of rouched cockle.
- NRW will document details of the rouching event and make a decision with regard to suspension or relaxation of licence conditions.
- Authorisation to remove rouched cockle by suspending or relaxing licence conditions may not be granted for a number of reasons, including, if:
- There is limited capacity within the TAC and it is considered that this activity could result in the fishery having to be closed prematurely once the TAC is reached.
- NRW has been unable to substantiate the rouched cockle event.
- The quantity of rouched cockle is insufficient to warrant the process, e.g. will naturally be cleared within a couple of days under existing daily quotas.
- It is considered that the authorisation may be detrimental to the fishery in any way.
- Where it is appropriate to suspend or relax licence conditions this may include changes to any of the following:
- Maximum daily quota
- Minimum or maximum sizes (if applicable)
- Requirement to tag bags
- Restrictions on the equipment that can be used to collect cockle
- Use of short-term, non-renewable licences
- Fishery opening periods
- A written Notice to licence holders detailing the temporary changes to licence conditions and the timeframe in which these are relevant will be sent to all licence holders by post.
- If a Notice to facilitate the clearing of rouched cockle is not issued, all existing licence conditions remain regardless of whether rouched cockle is present and being gathered. Any breach of licence conditions when a Notice is not in place or of a condition not relaxed or suspended through a Notice is an offence.
Annex 3 - Dee Estuary Cockle Fishery endorsement procedure
Natural Resources Wales is committed to ensuring the Dee Estuary Cockle Fishery Order 2008 (DECFO), is correctly used for the benefit of licensees, wildlife and the wider estuarine environment.
Article 6 of the DECFO gives NRW the discretionary power to authorise ie endorse, a second person on a licence to dredge, fish for, or take cockles within the fishery under the same conditions as the licensee.
For the avoidance of doubt, this means that an endorsee cannot harvest cockles from the fishery at the same time as the licensee.
NRW recognises and acknowledges that as licensees are self-employed, they lose income if they are incapable of working. NRW are therefore using the power granted under the DECFO for the benefit of licensees who have genuine reasons for being unable to work their licence for short term periods. NRW has put in place limits on the duration of endorsements in any one season in order to encourage proper use of the licensing system and to allow potential new entrants into the fishery to gain experience.
NRW aims to achieve this through effective monitoring and management of any endorsements.
This procedure applies to:
- all Dee Cockle Fishery licensees
- all potential endorsees proposed by Dee Cockle Fishery licensees
- all NRW staff involved in the processing of endorsement requests
Endorsements will only be available during the cockle gathering season i.e. during the period July 1st to December 31st. An endorsement will last for a period of up to 28 days. A licensee may request up to 6 separate endorsements per season. A licensee may not have more than 1 endorsement active at any given time. A licensee may apply for 6 consecutive endorsements in one application (using the same endorsee). While the application may be approved in principle, certificates for the subsequent endorsement periods will not be issued until the endorsee has completed and submitted catch returns for the prior endorsement period.
Endorsements will only be granted for reasons of sickness (in which case a Statement of Fitness to Work must be provided) or in exceptional circumstances at NRW’s discretion.
Request to endorse
Licensees are to submit a written request (via post or email) to NRW to have a person endorsed on their licence. All requests for endorsement must be sent at least 14 days before the requested endorsement start date. This initial request must be directed to the Dee Cockle Officer (at Natural Resources Wales, Chester Road, Buckley, CH7 3AG or firstname.lastname@example.org). This request must include:
- The reason(s) for the request
- The duration of the endorsement requested
- The name and contact details of the proposed endorsee
Any individual proposed as an endorsee must hold an active position on the Licence Allocation List. In order to be active on this list an endorsee must pass a Fit and Proper Person Assessment (FPPA). Full details of the FPPA are contained in Annex 7.
A licensee may request from NRW a list of eligible endorsees. This list will only be provided for this reason and names will be listed in alphabetical order.
Proposed endorsees who have applied for and hold an active position on the Licence Allocation List for a for full Dee Cockle Fishery licence will have already completed the FPPA for that process. In the event that their FPPA was passed within 12 months of an application for endorsement, they will not need another FPPA. If the application for an endorsement occurs more than 12 months after they passed a FPPA, a new one must be completed.
Following completion of a FPPA and initial approval of a proposed endorsee, the licensee and proposed endorsee will be contacted and asked to provide the following documentation in support of their application.
For the proposed endorsee:
- An identity document showing the proposed endorsee is over 16 years of age
- A document showing proof of address (Driving licence, bank statement or utility bill)
- Original Survival at Sea certificate
- Original First Aid at Sea certificate
- Original Foreshore Gatherer’s certificate
Certificates for health and safety related training courses (Survival at Sea, First Aid at Sea, Foreshore Gatherer) will not be accepted if they are more than 5 years old.
And if the endorsee proposes to operate a boat on the fishery:
- Certificate proving minimum of RYA Powerboat Level 2
- RYA VHF Radio Operators certificate or equivalent
It is the responsibility of the licensee to remain in regular contact with the Dee Cockle Officer during this period. Failure to update or supply the required paperwork may result in the process being delayed until the correct paperwork has been received.
Recording and processing of documentation
NRW will create a file for each endorsement request and make photocopies/scans of all relevant paperwork in support of the request. This file will contain personal information and will be treated in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
Review panel and interview
Once all supporting paperwork has been provided, the Dee Cockle Officer will pass the information to an internal review panel. This panel will consist of at least three NRW members of staff who will consider the request and supporting paperwork to ensure consistency and fairness.
If the internal review panel approve the request, the Dee Cockle Officer will then arrange for the licensee and proposed endorsee to attend the Buckley office for interview together with a member of the Enforcement Team. This interview will only take place for a first-time endorsement. Any subsequent applications, within a single season will not require further interviews unless the licensee changes his endorsee. If the internal review panel reject the request, the licensee and proposed endorsee will be informed by the Dee Cockle Officer.
During the interview, the Dee Cockle Officer and/or a member of the Enforcement Team will also highlight the responsibilities of both the licensee and the endorsee within the fishery. Endorsees will be authorised to cockle under the same Restrictions and Regulations and Licence Conditions as the licensee. A copy of these will be supplied to the endorsee during the meeting. For the avoidance of doubt, an endorsee cannot harvest cockles from the fishery at the same time as the licensee.
The licensee and endorsee will sign an acknowledgement slip indicating they both understand the terms of the endorsement and that the endorsee has received the endorsement as well as a copy of the Restrictions and Regulations and Licence Conditions.
The licence endorsement details will be copied to the Enforcement Team so that effective monitoring of compliance with licence requirements can be carried out.
The duration of any single endorsement will be up to 28 days. Each licence holder will be entitled to a maximum of six separate endorsements in any one season. It is the responsibility of the licensee to request further endorsements. Where a licensee has requested 6 continuous endorsement periods using the same endorsee, the licensee and endorsee will not need to resubmit supporting documentation, nor will they be required to attend a second interview.
An endorsee must not harvest cockles beyond the expiry date of an endorsement. An endorsee will only be able to continue to harvest cockles once a new endorsement certificate is issued by NRW. Enforcement action will be taken against any endorsee caught cockling without a valid endorsement. Any further endorsements will not be issued if:
- the licensee or endorsee have outstanding catch returns
- the endorsee has committed an offence within the fishery
- the enforcement team have an ongoing investigation concerning either the licensee or the endorsee
Where an endorsee is working continuous endorsement periods, catch returns for the first 21 days of the endorsement period must be submitted before a certificate will be provided authorising the subsequent endorsement period. The remaining catch returns (days 22-28) must be submitted to the Buckley office within 7 days of the new endorsement period beginning. Failure to comply with this will result in the suspension of the endorsement.
It is the responsibility of the endorsee to note the end date and time of the endorsement and not harvest cockles from the fishery beyond this date unless another valid endorsement has been issued. If they participate in the fishery beyond the end date of the endorsement, they will be committing the offence of fishing without the benefit of a valid licence and will be subject to appropriate enforcement action.
Withdrawing the endorsement
NRW may withdraw the endorsement if:
- A licensee wishes to revoke an endorsement before the expiry date on the certificate issued. NRW must be informed in writing. This will result in the endorsement being withdrawn from the endorsee.
- Any information or evidence is received which casts doubt on the validity of any paperwork submitted as part of an endorsement application (See Fraudulent Information below).
- NRW considers that the endorsee or licensee has breached any of the Restrictions and Regulations or Licence Conditions.
As the endorsement process is entirely discretionary, NRW may review an endorsement at any time and subsequently affirm, modify or withdraw the endorsement.
If NRW gain information or evidence that a licensee or endorsee has submitted fraudulent paperwork, any current endorsement will be immediately withdrawn.
NRW have the discretion to liaise with other public bodies or government agencies should it be found that a licensee or endorsee has submitted any fraudulent paperwork.
Annex 4 - Safety requirements
This document draws attention to the health and safety guidance and requirements for gathering cockles and working intertidally for licensees and other users of the fishery.
Qualifications for cockle gathering
- Foreshore gatherers safety course/certificate
- Survival at sea certificate
- First aid at sea certificate
The qualifications below will be required for licensees using a vessel to access the fishery:
- Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Power Boat Level 2 with command endorsement training or equivalent course or Sea Fish Industry Authority under 16.5m skipper ticket
- RYA VHF Radio Operators certificate or equivalent
Safety advice for boat use/vessels
See the information and guidance below provided by the Marine and Coastguard Agency on safety advice for boat/vessels involved in cockling operations and their responsibility to regulate and enforce:
A vessel involved in any manner with regard to the transportation of personnel, equipment or cargo for cockling in the area will be operating commercially. It will be expected that all commercially operating vessels are certificated and comply with the appropriate United Kingdom legislation and guidance, including but not limited to:
These regulations cover vessels up to 24m load line length and carrying up to 12 passengers or equivalent weight in cargo (approximately 1000kg). More cargo may be permitted if the vessel has appropriate approved stability information.
The Maritime and Coastguard Agency has delegated the survey and certification work to certifying authorities. MIN 538, as listed above, provide the details of the certifying authorities.
Additionally, any Registered Fishing Vessel used for transport of catch will be classed as cargo carrying and as such will also be required to comply with the above regulations.
It is the responsibility of the owner/managing agent and skipper to ensure that they are complying with all the relevant applicable legislation.
These types of operations are associated with specific risks and hazards including, but not limited to, night work and fatigue, effect of tides, adverse weather conditions, towing. The owner shall evaluate the risks with the aim of reducing them and creating a safe working environment, adopting procedures and instructions which shall be documented and form part of a Safety Management System.
Contravention of any provision shall be an offence by the owner and the master of the vessel punishable on summary conviction by a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or on conviction on indictment by imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine, or both.
In any case where a vessel does not comply with the requirements of these Regulations, that vessel shall be liable to be detained.
Further information on this legislation can be sought from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
Annex 5 - Licence Allocation Procedure
This procedure will be used in the issuing of probationary licences under the Dee Estuary Cockle Fishery Order 2008, along with providing a framework for the ranking of applicants eligible for a short-term, non-renewable licence within the fishery. An individual may not hold more than one licence within the Dee Estuary Cockle Fishery.
A ranked list created according to this procedure in 2021 is valid until December 31 2023, with applications being opened again from 22 January 2024, to create a new ranked list valid until December 31 2027 (the final day of the fishing season prior to the expiry of the Regulating Order on June 30 2028). Applications must be received by NRW by the closing date of 1 March 2024. Applications will not be accepted after the closing date.
Applicants in 2024 will have their 2021 score rolled over into the 2024 process. An applicant who applies in 2021 will only need to provide evidence for 2021, 2022 and 2023 during the 2024 application process. Points for these years will be added to their 2021 score. New applicants in 2024 will be required to submit a full range of evidence dating back to pre-1995.
The decision to advertise applications for a probationary licence will be at the discretion of NRW and primarily based on permanent licence availability. Secondary uses of the ranked list will be to identify individuals eligible to work as endorsees and those to receive short-term, non-renewable licences if NRW chooses to issue them.
Advertisements for applications are to be placed on the NRW website and other appropriate media. The window for applications will run for a minimum of 4 weeks.
Applications must be received by NRW by the closing date set out in the advertisement. Applications will not be accepted after the closing date.
An application will be considered for any persons who turn 16 years of age during the LAP period 2024 to end the of 2027 but they will not be eligible for a licence or to become an endorsee until they turn 16 years of age. NRW will not accept evidence gained when the applicant was under 16 years of age.
In cases where fraudulent information is supplied as part of and/or in support of an application, that application shall be deemed null and void. Where said fraudulent information has been supplied by another applicant, their own application shall also be deemed null and void.
Licence allocation process
All applicants must pass a Fit and Proper Person Assessment (FPPA) before they will be considered for entry into the fishery. Full details of the FPPA are contained in Annex 7.
An applicant who fails the FPPA will have their application scored, but they will be suspended from the Licence Allocation List. NRW shall initially consider all applications by assessing:
- The fit and proper persons assessment (FPPA)
- The details on the application form
- The supporting documentation accompanying the application
The above categories of information, all of which should be submitted to NRW in writing, shall collectively be called the Assessment Information.
The Assessment Information should demonstrate the extent to which the applicant has:
- Shown that they are a suitable person to participate in the Dee cockle fishery. Failure to pass the fit and proper persons test will result in an applicant being suspended from the Licence Allocation List.
- Actively and materially participated in the Dee cockle fishery or in a cockle fishery elsewhere
- Operated as a commercial fisher on the Dee or as a commercial fisher elsewhere
- Owned a registered fishing vessel or been qualified as a vessel skipper
- In submitting Assessment Information to NRW, applicants should take into account the following:
Evidence of active and material participation in the Dee cockle fishery, or as a commercial fisher on the Dee or elsewhere could include:
- Tax returns, catch returns, sales invoices, landing documentation
- MCA records of ownership of vessels, fleet registers, original certificates showing relevant qualifications
- Evidence from a verifiable source to demonstrate activity in fishing industry such as, but not limited to, NWIFCA or MMO permits or communications. Photographic evidence may be accepted if it is legible and verifiable (e.g. photos of permits/licences) but will not be accepted if it is unverifiable (e.g. a photo of an individual standing on/next to a fishing boat).
Evidence of an illness or disability inhibiting participation in the fishery:
Where an applicant can demonstrate active and material participation in the fishery during at least one full fishing season and consider that they would have been able to demonstrate participation in the fishery during one or more subsequent fishing seasons but for the illness or disability, then they may submit evidence of their illness or disability in lieu of evidence of participation in the fishery during the fishing season(s) in question.
Evidence of illness or disability could include evidence of statutory payments received throughout the period in question (for example, in the form of statutory sick pay, disability living allowance or incapacity benefit, or other statutory payments that relate to disability or incapacity to work), or production of contemporaneous medical records which satisfactorily demonstrate that the applicant was medically unfit to participate throughout the fishing season(s) in question.
NRW reserves the right to request additional information to verify applications. Submission of medical records must be accompanied by a waiver giving NRW permission to contact the applicant’s medical practitioner for verification.
NRW are looking for applicants to demonstrate their prior experience of cockling on the Dee, other commercial fishing experience on the Dee, and/or cockling experience elsewhere. NRW shall consider the Assessment Information for each applicant and their evidence of active and material participation in either the commercial cockle fishery or other commercial fishery against the following criteria:
Pre 1995 (any 1 Year, Maximum 5 points)
5 points for evidence of commercial fishing activity on the Dee
1995-2007 (13 Years, Maximum 33 points, cockle fishery was only open in 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005)
5 points for evidence of commercial cockle fishing on the Dee
1 point for evidence of other commercial fishing activity on the Dee
2008-2017 (10 Years, Maximum 50 points)
5 points for each year of evidence of cockle fishing on the Dee as a licence holder or endorsee
4 points for each year of evidence of other commercial fishing activity on the Dee
3 points for each year of evidence of cockle fishing elsewhere
2 points for each year of evidence of other commercial fishing activity elsewhere or evidence of ownership of a registered fishing vessel or qualified vessel skipper certification
2018-2023 (6 Years, Maximum 30 points)
For the period 2018-2023 an income tax return must be submitted for each year of evidence. The income tax return must state that at least some of the income was derived from commercial fishing activity. If no income tax return is submitted for a given year no points will be scored in that year. As well as the income tax return, applicants will be required to submit evidence of the type and location of fishing undertaken within that tax year.
5 points for each year of evidence of cockle fishing on the Dee as a licence holder, permit holder or endorsee
4 points for each year of evidence of other commercial fishing activity on the Dee
3 points for each year of evidence of cockle fishing elsewhere
2 points for each year of evidence of other commercial fishing activity elsewhere or evidence of ownership of a registered fishing vessel or qualified vessel skipper certification
In the 2021 application process the maximum possible score will be 103 points. In future years a maximum of 5 points per year will be available. For example, during the 2024 application process a maximum of 15 points will be available for the period of 2021-2023.
The application will be provisionally scored by a member of the NRW cockle management team. The applicant will then be contacted and notified of their provisional score. The applicant will then be given 5 working days from the date of being notified of their provisional score to provide further evidence they consider relevant. 10 working days from the date of being notified of their provisional score, the applicant will be asked to confirm, by signature, that they have provided all relevant evidence to back up their application.
Once all applications have been provisionally scored and applicants have confirmed that they have provided all relevant evidence, the applications will be assessed by a minimum of 3 members of the NRW cockle management team in order to determine the final points award and subsequent ranking of applicants.
The NRW cockle fishery management team will be composed of, at a minimum, the Dee Estuary Cockle Officer, the line manager of the Cockle Officer and the Dee Estuary Cockle Fishery Manager. The management team may also include other individuals from the NRW Marine Service Area with appropriate background and experience.
The cockle management team will examine all information that they have obtained including:
- The completed FPPA
- The Assessment Information that has been substantiated
- Any other information that NRW has obtained during the application process.
For all evidence provided for Sections 1 and 2 (paragraph 17) the cockle management team will consult with a verification group comprising a subset of DECFAG members. This means that all evidence of Dee based activity from the period before the Regulating Order will be assessed by a stakeholder group who are recognised to have knowledge of historical activity on the Dee. Members of this group will not be party to any application and/or scoring details outside of their verification requirements. No evidence submitted for the period 2008 and onwards will be presented to this group.
- Any applicant who has a provisional score adjusted by the cockle management team at this stage will be notified of this decision and will be given an opportunity to appeal this decision.
- Any appeals generated as a result of such a point adjustment will be processed before a final ranked list can be generated.
- NRW will record the proceedings of scoring by the management team and following the approval of final scores of applications will generate a ranked list of applicants. In the event that two or more applicants receive identical scores, NRW will conduct interviews of those applicants in order to determine raking on the Licence Allocation List. Interviews will be conducted as required when the issuing of a licence (probationary or short-term, non-renewable) is likely to involve applicants with identical scores.
- The ranked list of applicants will be held as a closed document within NRW. Individual applicants in the top 10 will be informed of their place on the list. Applicants outside the top 10 will be informed that they are not in the top 10. In the event that a licence is issued, and the successful applicant is removed from the list, the ‘new’ top 10 will be notified of their positions. These new positions will also apply in the event of short-term, non-renewable licences being issued.
Right of appeal
In the event that an applicant has their provisional score adjusted by the cockle management team they will be notified of their right to appeal.
Together with notification of the right of appeal the applicant shall be supplied with:
- The decision documentation, subject to any legal restrictions
- A copy of the Appeal Procedure (below)
On receipt of an appeal from an applicant, NRW will convene an Appeal Panel. The appeal panel should consist of 3 individuals, of which 2 will be NRW managers. The third member of the panel will be appointed by the Environment Agency. A legal adviser shall also support the panel.
The Appeal Panel will be chaired by one of the NRW managers, but all decisions will be reached by consensus. A full written record will be made of all Appeal Panel proceedings.
If an applicant has their provisional points score adjusted by the cockle management team and chooses to appeal they must register the grounds for their appeal in writing within 10 working days of the date of NRW’s written confirmation of their score. When registering their grounds for appeal, the applicant must stipulate whether they propose to attend in person and be heard by the Appeal Panel or to submit their appeal in writing only. Arrangements will then be made for a meeting of the Appeal Panel within 28 days of the registration of the appeal. The Dee cockle officer will liaise with the applicant to ensure any written evidence is submitted to NRW at least 5 working days in advance of the hearing.
If the applicant elects to attend the hearing, they are entitled to have one legal adviser or other representative or supporter in attendance. They are also entitled to call a maximum of three witnesses to support their appeal. They must inform the Appeal Panel at least 5 working days in advance of the hearing if they propose to have witnesses or have any other person present evidence on their behalf at the hearing.
At an attended appeal hearing the Chair of the Appeal Panel will provide an opportunity for NRW and the applicant or their representative to present evidence, to call relevant witnesses and for each to question the other for clarification or to challenge evidence presented.
If the applicant chooses to present their case in writing only, NRW will ensure that all evidence for the Appeal Panel is provided in writing.
Whatever the appeal format, NRW will, as a minimum, provide to the Appeal Panel all the information supplied to the applicant regarding the decision to adjust a score as laid out above.
Within 5 working days of the Appeal Panel hearing or their consideration of written submissions, the decision of the Appeal Panel will be communicated in writing via the Dee cockle officer to the applicant.
The Dee cockle officer will ensure, and make a written record, that the applicant is in possession of:
- The information supplied when the provisional point scoring was adjusted
- The written record of the appeal hearing
- A record of any new information considered in the appeal
- Any findings of fact and the reasons for the decision of the Appeal Panel
Procedure for offering a licence
In the event that a licence is to be allocated, NRW will write to the applicant at the top of the Licence Allocation List, advising them of the offer of a licence on payment of the appropriate duty and informing them of the last date upon which payment may be made (the payment deadline).
In the event of a licence being offered during the period June 1st to December 31st, the payment deadline will be 28 days from the date of the offer. When a licence becomes available between Oct 1st and Dec 31st NRW can use its discretion as to whether the licence is issued immediately or for the beginning of the following season. In the event of a licence being offered during the period Jan 1st to May 31st the payment deadline will be June 30th. NRW will issue a licence on receipt of a cleared payment provided that the payment is received (and cleared as necessary) no later than 5:00pm on the payment deadline.
NRW will not issue a licence until payment is made and if payment has not been received (and cleared as necessary) by 5:00pm on the payment deadline, the offer of a licence will lapse and NRW will be entitled to offer the licence to the next ranked applicant. An applicant who allows the offer of a licence to lapse in this way will be removed from the ranked list.
If the licence offer is accepted, the successful applicant(s) will be required to serve the first two seasons as a probationary period, with the potential for removal if the required standards are not met. The minimum standard would be adherence to the Licence Conditions and compliance with the minimum fishing effort detailed in paragraph 44 below. Should the probationary licencee(s) be convicted of an offence on the Fishery or otherwise commit an offence which would cause the probationary licencee to fail the FPPA, the licence(s) would be cancelled.
Except in exceptional circumstances, all probationary licencees must also fish a minimum of 45% of available tides in each of the probationary seasons. A probationary licencee will not be allowed to use an endorsee.
Allocation of licences in subsequent year
Individuals who have held a licence (other than a short-term, non-renewable licence) in the preceding season, will be notified by NRW of the need to apply for the coming season by post. This letter, together with an application form will be sent out by NRW as soon as possible after the end of the season.
Applications for the coming season must be received by NRW within 6 weeks of the date of the letter from NRW being sent. The exact deadline will be specified within the letter.
If a licencee from the preceding season has not returned their application form by this deadline, NRW will contact them to consider whether any special mitigating circumstances warrant late acceptance of an application. Any decision to allow a late application to proceed will be at NRW’s discretion.
Licences will be allocated to all individuals who held a licence (other than a short-term, non-renewable licence) during the preceding season, who wish to continue fishing. If a licencee has their licence revoked they will not be eligible for a licence in the subsequent season.
Failure to renew a licence in any year when licences are available will result in the individual losing their entitlement to a licence. Exception will only be made for long term illness on receipt of medical evidence and at NRW’s discretion.
Issuing of short-term, non-renewable licences
The decision to issue short-term, non-renewable licences, including the number and duration of such licences, will be at the discretion of NRW and based on the: results of the spring and autumn stock assessments of the Fishery; the analysis of catch returns; and the appropriate assessment to be carried out in accordance with the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. A short-term, non-renewable licence will be issued for a period of less than a full season, and will only be valid within a single season.
The Licence Allocation List generated by the Licence Allocation Process will remain valid for the periods specified in paragraph 2 above.
Should NRW wish to issue short-term, non-renewable licences, they will be offered to the highest ranked individual(s) on the Licence Allocation List after the previous successful applicant. NRW will write to each individual advising them of the offer of a short-term, non-renewable licence on payment of the appropriate duty and informing them of the last date upon which payment may be made (the payment deadline). Calculation of fees for short-term, non-renewable licences is addressed in paragraph 59 below
The payment deadline will be twenty eight days after the date of the offer letter.
NRW will issue a short-term, non-renewable licence upon receipt of a cleared payment provided that the payment is received (and cleared as necessary) no later than 5:00pm on the payment deadline.
NRW will not issue a short-term, non-renewable licence until payment is made and if payment has not been received (and cleared as necessary) by 5:00pm on the payment deadline, the offer of a short-term, non-renewable licence will lapse and NRW will be entitled to offer the short-term, non-renewable licence to the next highest ranked individual on the ranked list.
A short-term, non-renewable licence issued under this section can only authorise an individual to fish for cockles for the duration of the dates specified on the licence and for the fishing season to which it relates.
The allocation of a short-term, non-renewable licence under this section does not entitle an individual to allocation of a licence (short-term, non-renewable or otherwise) in subsequent seasons.
Individuals who receive an offer of a short-term, non-renewable licence under this section will retain their place on the ranked list for the issue of a probationary licence irrespective of whether they accept or decline the offer of a short-term, non-renewable licence.
The licence fee for the 2020 season was £1,800. The full season licence fee payable is reviewed periodically and is based on the predicted costs of monitoring, management and enforcement for the year including staff time and on-costs:
Licence Fee = (A x B) / N
A = annual working days on survey, enforcement, administration and other related work
B = staff cost per working day (£)
N = number of licences
The licence fee for a partial season or short-term, non-renewable licence will be calculated in the same way as full season licences. However, fees will be charged on a pro rata basis based on the fishing season lasting from July 1st to December 31st. In the event of short-term, non-renewable licences being issued for a period of less than 1 week, there will be a minimum licence fee of £200.
Annex 6 - Enforcement and Prosecution Policy
Annex 7 - Fit and Proper Person Assessment (FPPA)
Applicants to the Licence Allocation Procedure for a Dee cockle licence will be required to undergo a FPPA in order to be allocated an active position on the ranked list for allocation of a permanent (probationary) or short-term, non-renewable licence or to be considered as an endorsee.
Applicants who do not pass this FPPA will have their position on the ranked list suspended until such time as they are able to pass the FPPA.
The FPPA will comprise 3 separate sections:
- Unspent fisheries convictions and cautions
- Other relevant unspent criminal convictions and cautions (to include, but not be limited to: offences relating to violence, intimidation, fraud, drugs, people trafficking, modern slavery)
- A record of non compliance or history of poor behaviour
Unspent fisheries convictions and cautions
An applicant will be deemed to have failed a FPPA in the event that they have an unspent fisheries conviction under Section 3 of the Sea Fisheries (Shellfish) Act 1967. Fisheries convictions under the 1967 Act are considered to be spent 12 months after the date of conviction.
An applicant will also be deemed to have failed a FPPA in the event that they have an unspent fisheries conviction in respect of any other fisheries legislation. Fisheries convictions under other fisheries legislation will be considered to be spent in accordance with the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
An applicant will be deemed to have failed a FPPA in the event that they have received a fisheries related formal conditional caution in the 3 months prior to the date of their application. 3 months after the date of a formal conditional caution, the caution will be spent.
When considering fisheries convictions and cautions NRW will use their own enforcement records as well as those from Welsh Government, Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities and any other relevant fisheries regulator.
Other relevant unspent criminal convictions and cautions
Applicants must complete a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) basic check to identify any unspent convictions. Request a basic DBS check - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) Applicants are responsible for the cost of their own DBS check.
A DBS check is valid for a period of 12 months. In order to remain active on the ranked list for a permanent (probationary) licence, or the eligible endorsee list, an applicant must renew their DBS check every 12 months. On expiry of the DBS check, an applicant will be suspended until a renewal is provided.
If, during the period of validity of a DBS check, NRW finds that an applicant has engaged in activity that would result in the failure of the FPPA, NRW may suspend the applicant.
An applicant will be deemed to have failed a FPPA in the event that they have an other unspent relevant conviction. Convictions under other legislation will be considered to be spent in accordance with the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
An applicant will be deemed to have failed a FPPA in the event that they have received a formal conditional caution for a relevant offence in the 3 months prior to the date of their application. 3 months after the date of a formal conditional caution, the caution will be spent.
When considering conditional cautions for other relevant offences NRW will liaise with the Police.
A record of non-compliance or poor behaviour
In assessing applicant suitability NRW will consider whether the applicant has a poor record of compliance with regulatory requirements. These may include:
- receipt of formal enforcement notices (advice and guidance letters or warning letters)
- a history of non-compliance with the Restrictions and Regulations contained in the Dee Cockle Fishery Order 2008 and the Dee Cockle Management Plan
- a history of non-compliance with Licence Conditions
- poor behaviour which the regulator considers to be unacceptable. This could include physical acts or language (written, verbal or online) that causes staff or other fishery stakeholders to feel intimidated, afraid, threatened or abused. Preventing access to the fishery, failure to provide required documents and declarations that are disingenuous may also be considered poor behaviour
If an applicant is deemed by NRW to have failed the FFPA due to non compliance or poor behaviour they will be suspended from the ranked list for a period of 12 months from the date that they are informed of the FPPA failure.
Management of the licence allocation list
NRW will maintain a ranked list of applicants for a permanent (probationary) licence, and an eligible endorsee list, recording active and suspended individuals.
The list of active individuals eligible to work as an endorsee will be presented in alphabetical order. This list will only be available to licence holders who are requesting an endorsement on their licence. Applicants who do not give permission for NRW to provide name and contact details will not appear on the ‘eligible endorsee’ list.
Individuals who are suspended from the list will not be eligible for a licence (probationary or short-term, non-renewable).
Individuals who are suspended from the list will not be eligible to work as an endorsee on a permanent licence.