Cockle fishing studies underway

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While the cockle fishery remains closed in the Solway, a small group of fishermen are set to form a limited commercial fishery to help with a management study led by Marin Scotland.

The study will look at ways to develop management methods for the future and will take full account of the need to protect the important wildlife and habitats of the Solway.

Allan Gibb, Marine Scotland’s Head of Sea Fisheries Operations, chaired public meetings on the matter earlier this year.

He said: “The overwhelming desire of everyone who contributed was for a sustainable long-term cockle fishery. The need for a partnership of local community, industry and agencies working together towards common goals was recognised as the only way to achieve this. A Steering Group chaired by Marine Scotland has now been established to co-ordinate a broad range of complementary work-streams, all geared towards building a management model which will deliver safe and sustainable fishing practices for the future.”

Current work includes a scientific study led by Marine Scotland which will test a Territorial User Rights for Fisheries (TURF) model for management of the fishery. The TURF approach works by awarding exclusive access to fishing areas to a clearly defined group and has proved to be effective in managing issues such as overfishing and weak economic returns in other parts of the world. The TURFs study will test elements of proposed systems for

safe and controlled hand gathering of cockles on the beach; transportation between the beach and a single collection point; fair and transparent payment of cocklers and use of a single distribution point.

In addition, Solway Firth Partnership has commissioned a Cockle Fishery Review of Management Options: a complementary study funded by the Dumfries and Galloway Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG) under the European Fisheries Fund Axis 4 programme and Marine Scotland. The aims are to inform future management and to consider the cross border context for the fishery, as well as using Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standards as a guide to sustainability. MSC is an international fisheries accreditation programme that sets a recognised benchmark for sustainably managed fisheries.