Burry Inlet cockle fishery re-certified to MSC standard – Fishupdate.com

Burry Inlet cockle fishery re-certified to MSC standard Published:  02 March, 2007

THE traditional cockle fishery in the Burry Inlet estuary in Wales has achieved re-certification to the MSC’s environmental standard.

An independent assessment team analysed the cockle stock, looked at the impacts of the fishing activities on the marine environment and checked how the fishery is managed. The team has determined that the fishery meets the MSC criteria and may continue to sell cockles bearing the MSC eco-label for another five years – assuring consumers that the cockles are harvested in a sustainable way.

The Burry Inlet cockle fishery is located in Carmarthen Bay on the southern coast of Wales. Since Roman and medieval times, the fishers have relied on hand-raking and sieving to collect cockles. The body responsible for managing the fishery, the South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee (SWSFC), takes a precautionary approach towards the fishery’s management and introduced a minimum landing size to protect the breeding stock as early as the 1920s.

Nick O’Sullivan, Chairman of the South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee, said: “On behalf of the Committee I am very pleased that MSC accreditation has been renewed for a further five years. This is a testament to the hard work of the Committee and its Officers and the good working relationship it has with the range of people who either work on the estuary and look after or enjoy its wildlife and habitat. Sadly, our large stock of cockles has been dying in the spring of each of the last five years due to some external events totally unrelated to fishing.

This has placed pressure on the EU Special Protection Area status thereby providing additional management challenges. It is hoped that this certification will help draw attention to the situation and we are pressing for funding of joint agency research initiatives to identify the cause(s). Only having identified and rectified these, will the cockle industry be able to capitalise on marketing initiatives that come from selling MSC certified product now recognised throughout the world.”

Cockles are molluscs found on the seashore in sheltered sandy or mud areas. The Burry Inlet yields around 3,500 tonnes of cockles per year. They are mostly sold locally, but also to Spain, Holland, France and Portugal. In the UK, customers of Waitrose can find cockles with the MSC eco-label on the retailer’s fresh fish counters. Cockles have long been a staple in Wales and are mostly consumed pickled in vinegar. They have a sweet and succulent taste combined with the firm, meaty texture of lobster.

The Burry Inlet cockle fishery is one of 22 fisheries worldwide that are certified to the MSC standard to date. In total, over 50 fisheries with annual catches of more than 3.5 million tonnes of seafood are engaged in the MSC programme. They represent 42% of the world’s wild salmon catch, 32% of the prime whitefish catch, and 18% of the lobster catches for human consumption. Nearly 500 seafood products carry the blue MSC eco-label in 25 countries.

www.fishupdate.com is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.