Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Cockling on the Dee

From 1st July for six months the 53 licensed cocklers on the Dee Estuary can go cockling 5 days a week raking up to 150 kilograms per day. The cost of a licence for the season is £1,300 and an average price per kilo, depending on size and weight, is about £1.60. Doing the maths that means 150 x 5 x 26 x £1.60 = a maximum payback of £31,200.

It’s the 6th consecutive year of cockling on the Dee. Before 2008 it was boom and bust with the fishery being declared open, then ransacked by up to a thousand cocklers for 3 days or so until the fishery would be declared closed and that’s how it might stay for a few years until stocks recovered! Bad news for the cockles and all the birds, such as Oystercatchers, that depend on shellfish.

These days Natural Resources Wales assess the biomass of cockles by survey, calculate the amount needed for the birds, the amount needed for breeding and the balance that can be made available to cocklers. Again doing the maths 150 x 5 x 26 x 53 (cocklers) = 1,033,500 kilos or more than a thousand tonnes has been declared as the quota.

Based on the recent years management the fishery has been accredited by the MSC, Marine Stewardship Council, which is a great step forward.

It’s a shame that all those lovely cockles need to be exported, mainly to Spain, where they are a premium prized product. We just don’t appreciate the world class quality we produce.

Dee cockles are much larger than those from Burry Port, the other major cockling beds in Wales. But talking to a couple of cocklers at the end of the second day of the season, they say there are very few cockles the right size due to the very cold spring weather. Maybe the season’s opening should have been delayed?

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