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January 2016 Update

As part of our commitment to re-opening the cockle fishery on the Solway, we had drawn up proposals for a further, extended, cockle management study to test in practice the suitability of control measures and to enable Marine Scotland to consider cockle fishing activity at a limited commercial scale.             

During consultative meetings in 2012 and 2013, we agreed with local stakeholders that the fishery will only be re-opened under strict management controls and only if a scientific stock survey confirms there is sufficient abundance to support a fishery. Unfortunately, our recent cockle stock survey has found that, after taking into account the requirements of the local bird life, the cockle biomass is insufficient to enable any commercial fishing at present. 

We have also been advised that there are no large concentrations of mature stocks and the numbers of juvenile cockles are also very low and unlikely to produce meaningful mature stocks in the near future. The results of our survey remind us that we are dealing with a highly volatile stock and this has been demonstrated over a number of years.

As our proposed study required a level of commercial cockle fishing, we will be unable to proceed with it until stocks improve.

We do however remain committed to re-opening the cockle fishery as soon as possible in a safe, controlled and sustainable way which brings economic benefit to the local area. We will therefore review the cockle stocks again in a couple of years and in the meantime we will arrange for a Stakeholder Group to be formed to keep interested parties informed and consider future management options.

One option for local control and management of a cockle fishery is by way of a Regulating Order. We are happy to offer advice on the application process to any interested parties.

October 2014 Update

On 27 August 2014, Marine Scotland issued a press release advising that the cockle management study had concluded early following the withdrawal of the contractor due to the inconsistent quality of the cockles and low prices available at the time.

It was very disappointing to have to bring the study to an end but there was no other option following the withdrawal of the contractor, as we were unable to re-allocate the contract and had no time to re-perform the protracted Europe–wide procurement exercise under which the original contractor had been appointed.

Marine Scotland is committed to having a cockle fishery that is safe, sustainable and supported by scientific stock assessments as agreed with stakeholders. We are therefore analysing the data gathered during the study and working on management options to re-open the fishery as soon as we can.

The main purpose of the study was to examine management systems and, although it finished earlier than expected, much of the practical management process has been tested and we have learned a lot from the work done. Details will be in our written findings but it is already clear there is quite a lot to be positive about. For example, we have had some very helpful feedback from partner agencies about the benefits of the unique centralised approach we were trialling, and strong support for the management measures relating to safety on the shore and training of fishermen. Inter-agency joint working on enforcement and public health systems was also very valuable in terms of future management options.

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