Sustainable cockles from Thames Estuary

The Leigh Port Partnership Cockle Fishery now has MSC certification  The Leigh Port Partnership Cockle Fishery now has MSC certification

An independent assessment of the Leigh Port Partnership cockle fishery in Essex, UK has found it meets the Marine Stewardship Council’s standard for sustainable fishing.

Following the results of the assessment by Lloyd’s Register, the fishery can sell cockles marked with the MSC blue label from the next cockling season, which begins in July 2020. 

Leigh Port Partnership spokesperson, Andrew Rattley, said that cockling was an important part of the local community. “As a collective of cockle fishermen working across areas of natural importance and outstanding beauty, alongside many important wildlife species, this is an achievement that we are all personally very proud of,” he said.

"MSC certification provides consumers with the certainty the seafood they buy is sourced and harvested sustainably from a well-managed fishery - we are proud our North Thames cockles are now a part of this scheme," he added.

Limiting the catch to specific months of the year and for cockles of a minimum size makes sure the shellfish have time to reach maturity and reproduce, a key part of fishing sustainably. It also factors in the needs of estuary wildlife such as wading birds that overwinter on the tidal banks where cockles are found. 

Fourteen licensed cockle vessels share the total allowable catch between them, fishing off the coast of Essex during July, August and September and at one site off the coast of Kent during October only. In 2017 the fishery caught 3,800 tonnes of cockles, most of which are exported to the European Union.

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