This update is the first of a series of brief reports to keep stakeholders informed of developments in the management of the Solway cockle fishery.
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.
The cockle fishery in the Solway Firth has been closed since September 2011 under The Inshore Fishing (Prohibition of Fishing for Cockles)(Solway Firth)(Scotland) Order 2011.
There have been calls to re-open it, and Marine Scotland held public meetings on the subject in 2012 and 2013:
The cockle fishery remains closed at this time.