Thames Estuary cockles to carry the MSC label in 2020

Published on
December 9, 2019

The Leigh Port Partnership cockle fishery has been assessed under the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) standard for sustainable fishing and found to be compliant with the program.

The Thames Estuary cockle fishery uses hydraulic dredging and is the first cockle fishery on the United Kingdom’s East Coast to be sustainably certified by the MSC. With the certification, beginning in July 2020, the fishery can sell cockles carrying the MSC blue ecolabel. The fishery was assessed by Lloyds Register.

“As a collective of cockle fishermen working across areas of natural importance and outstanding beauty, alongside many important wildlife species, this is an achievement that we are all personally very proud of,” the Leigh Port Partnership said of the certification.

There are 14 licensed cockle vessels in the fishery that operate out of three ports in England – Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, and Whitstable and Queenborough, Kent. The fishery stock levels are already independently monitored by Natural England and the Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, but a condition placed on the fishery is for cockle stock levels to be peer-reviewed.

“Cockling has been an important part of our local community for hundreds of years. This certification proves our fishers continue to be committed to the sustainability of the fishery into the future,” Leigh Port Partnership spokesperson Andrew Rattley said in a press release. “As a collective of cockle fishermen working across areas of natural importance and outstanding beauty, alongside many important wildlife species, this is an achievement that we are all personally very proud of. MSC certification provides consumers with the certainty the seafood they buy is sourced and harvested sustainably from a well-managed fishery – we are proud our North Thames cockles are now a part of this scheme.”

In 2017, the fishery caught 3,800 metric tons of cockles and most of the cockles caught in the Thames Estuary are exported to the European Union. The Thames Estuary cockle fishery is the sixth MSC-certified cockle fishery in the North Atlantic and is one of four based in the U.K.

“This is a great success story, and we recognize the fishery has worked hard to reach our world-class fisheries standard,” MSC U.K. spokesperson Katie Keay said. “Customers who buy any fish, seafood and seaweed products marked with our blue fish eco-label are rewarding fisheries like Leigh Port Partnership for fishing sustainably and demonstrating improvements.”

Photo courtesy of the Leigh Port Partnership

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