First certified in 2001, the Burry Inlet cockle fishery was the first bivalve mollusc fishery to achieve MSC certification, and the fifth fishery overall.
Cockles are burrowing bivalve shellfish, found on all British and European coasts. They are common in intertidal areas and shallow waters. Cockles live within a few centimetres of the surface. Their lifespan is typically 2-4 years and they spawn at around 18 months.
Cockles have been gathered in the Burry Inlet estuary, in Carmarthen Bay, South Wales, since Roman times – and methods have changed little since then. Thirty six licensed gatherers rake the cockles from the mud. They then sieve them through meshes in-situ, allowing any undersized cockles to return to the mud and be reburied. The Burry Inlet fishery is a 12 month, hand gathered fishery. The season runs from the 1st April–31st March.
Natural Resources Wales manages the fishery and carries out surveys twice a year, in May and November, to determine harvest levels. These are used to set quotas that ensure enough cockles are left to breed and as food for birds such as oystercatchers.
Cockles have long been a staple in Wales and are mostly consumed pickled in vinegar. Most are therefore cooked and sold locally but some are sold to UK retailers and a smaller proportion are exported to Spain, Holland, France and Portugal.
Cockle harvesting is a highly selective process. Individual fishers gather cockles using hand rakes and sieve the cockles in-situ allowing any undersized cockles to return to the mud.
COCKLES: DIVE DEEPER
To find out more about the lives of Burry Inlet’s cockle harvesters, to see cockle recipes or contact the fishery check out these resources
BUY MSC CERTIFIED COCKLES
MSC labelled cockles are sold in the United Kingdom, the United States and across northern Europe.
CONTACT THE FISHERY
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