Shellfish Harvesting Review Meeting 2010 NEKEMS

8 September 2010, 2pm – Austen Room, Thanet Council Offices, Margate

8 Sept 2010 – UPDATE to the previous notes of 5 August 2009, same venue above


See Appendix A1.

1. Current situation

The NEKEMS includes numerous nature conservation designations and bylaws and related controls relating to shellfish, but authorities are still receiving reports of concern about ‘over-collecting’ of shore life along the coast.

Thanet’s public chalk foreshore provides a hard substrate – suitably dominated in some areas by periwinkles & mussels; whilst Canterbury’s coast is mainly sediments – with cockles; manila clams and oysters, and has the additional issues of trespassing/taking from privately owned beds.

Concerns were highlighted during the original Management Scheme workshops in the 1990s, and have arisen from time to time ever since. Recent public complaints (at time of local elections over few months) arose in Canterbury & Thanet resulting in potential councillors querying the latest situation to try to stop collectors – mainly identified as ethnic/oriental collecting groups and families. Articles had also reached local Canterbury
newspapers, and there have been more recent community warden & police incidents (in Whitstable and Walpole Bay, Cliftonville). However, most of these reports and incidents tend to start from the basis that it is “assumed” to be a problem, and may arise because it is so publically visible.

During the last year, further reports have been collated, research started and two specific recent incidents have also raised concern that evidence has been obtained of use of hacking/damaging tools to forage, for rock oysters and this has been forwarded to the Gangmaster Licensing Authority (at this meeting: DVD & images). These incidents (last on 5 August 2010) were reported by a volunteer Thanet Coastal Warden,and were followed up by Thanet Community Wardens and Kent Police.

2. Research

Research (NE/TCP volunteer) into the sustainability of shellfish harvesting on the Thanet Coast over the last two years, has identified three types of collectors:

  1. Casual (small amounts of shellfish harvested);
  2. Local (larger and potentially commercial amounts);
  3. Organised groups (large amounts collected by groups or families)

The results were specific to the size and population density of periwinkles (although also recorded the mussel and algal cover) and showed no evidence that the harvesting of periwinkles is unsustainable.

The research indicates that more harvesting was recorded from April to Oct, reaching a peak over the summer months (although winter collecting may still take place), and that the ease of vehicle access is likely to have helped harvesting in some localities (eg Foreness Point until recent weeks, as new stern locking of the access barrier had been enforced). It was in these localities that the recommendation is for further research to look at the effects of the collection of a wide range of other marine shore life by the large organised and mainly ethnic groups.

Update 2010: The report ‘The sustainability of shellfish harvesting and its effects on the reef habitats within the Northeast Kent European Marine Sites (inter-tidal)’ – NECR044 – was circulated just before the meeting, and can be found at: In addition, ‘A desk based study to examine the management strategies of shellfish harvesting in the inter-tidal zone of the UK Coast’ has now been written by research student, suggesting that Sea Fisheries Committee bylaws seemed to be most appropriate form of management, but varied between regions around the country.

3. Existing management – legislation, bylaws or advice

  • SAC /SPA designations (NEKEMS Management Scheme): where Thanet Coastal Codes had recommended a voluntary approach to collect for your ‘own needs’.
  • SSSI: but may have nothing specific (SSSI Site Management Statements)
  • Sea Fisheries Committee (SFC): periwinkles can be collected ‘by hand’ only (Bylaws)
  • SFC: designated commercial shellfish areas – Minnis & Pegwell Bay (offshore)
  • SFC: minimum sizes – commercial fish/shellfish, including some crabs species
  • TDC/CCC Environmental Health – hygiene legislation & ‘commercial’ shellfish testing for public consumption. Canterbury CC had produced some text for warden information about shellfish for public consumption. Thanet signs had been related to shellfish prohibition signs (relating to the testing) and use to be on display at Minnis Bay… but may be online now?

It was pointed out that the main concern were directed at ethnic and oriental collectors, suggesting that harvesting had an impact on the a) habitats, and b) raising concern on the volume collected by the large groups. Incidents were cited included at Southend and Chichester, and additional links with checking on illegal immigrants. It was also suggested it may to check with Gangmasters Licensing Associations to establish if there is any stated minimum quantity that is deemed to be ‘commercial’.

Potential management options:

  • The precautionary principle was quoted and could be used if unsure where harvesting may not be sustainable….. mentioned as quoted on potential SACs and at Maplin Sands.
  • K&ESFC was quoted as suggesting 5 litres per person – which may help to quantify the maximum amount recommended per person, and could be suggested in the next review of the harvesting Thanet coastal code. Canterbury CC still to decide how to develop or adopt codes.
  • Voluntary additions to the codes could include avoiding the use of any hand tools (to avoid any possible damage to reef) and on the taking of undersized shore life (young crabs to allow to mature/breed where possible… some quoted in the SFC minimum sizes)
  • Traceability of where shellfish were taken for consumption (private or for public) was briefly discussed
  • Police needed clear advice if are to be involved; as would community wardens or volunteers.
  • Signs; images and text (eg leaflets or postcards) for public or collector information were discussed.
  • Introducing permits for harvesting adds a control, but would take a while and much work to introduce.
  • More information was still required – so the need for some desk top work could establish management already pursued elsewhere.
  • Further discussion with harvesters was suggested and continued monitoring of harvesters.

Additional management:

– Gangmaster Licensing Authority: Licenses required for organised commercial group collectors where a financial gain is involved. {An example of incidents was described for Portsmouth area, tackled in conjunction with Sussex Police & Arun DC. Evidencing – photos, van/car registration plates – and tracking of where shellfish is taken – is important. Often look out for workers directed by someone on mobile phone.
Incidents may involve illegal immigrant/identity theft,/exploited workers}
– Note: No licences for gathering shellfish have been issued in Kent; so if happening they could potentially face up to 10 years imprisonment.
– Police suggested we try to join up for a coordinated day of action, with various representatives from organisations here present.
– Reporting forms were also discussed (‘Pace’ and intelligence forms)

Additional discussion:

  • There’s still a debate about whether there even is a problem: as some species – like the Pacific Oyster that were being harvested on 5/8/10 are new non-native species that have only just established themselves on the chalk reef for the first time and so were not here 5 years ago – so there is debate about whether it could or should be ‘controlled’ in some way. However, the real issue is likely to be the “non-selective” harvesting by the larger oriental family groups, and any gang-led organised groups.
  • Damage; undersized;

4. Authorities/agencies or people with an interest

  • Thanet DC Foreshore (Environmental Services); TDC Environmental Health {– TCP to talk to: included at this meeting}.- present
  • Canterbury CC Foreshore & CCC Environmental Health – present
  • Kent & Essex Sea Fisheries Committee (shortly to be ‘IFCAs’) – present
  • Police, only if laws are being broken! {TCP to send info? Sent & included at follow up meeting} – present
  • Thanet Community Wardens /Anti-social behaviour liaison – present {now finished?}
  • Gangmaster Licensing Authority – present


  • Local shellfish collectors; Organised groups / oriental collectors; Concerned locals / visitors; Fish shops
  • NNR Committee; NEKEMS Management Group (Relevant Authorities) & stakeholders
  • Food Standards Agency – food fraud