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.