Morecambe Bay cockle industry threatened and could be 'shut down overnight'
Morecambe’s cockle and mussel industry could effectively be shut down completely due to Brexit rules on exports, claims a local fisherman.
Cockles have been harvested from the intertidal sands for generations but the industry could disappear for good if export certificates are not issued.
Simon ward, 37, from Overton, said: “The cockle and mussel industry has effectively been shut down since January 1 due to Brexit.
“This has rendered hundreds of people unemployed in the North West of England alone, however this a national problem.
“This is the time we make our wages to see us through the summer months, and it has been taken from us through no fault of our own.
“This is a multimillion pound industry shut down overnight.
“The cockle and mussel (bivalve mollusc) season runs from September to the end of April, May 1. There are 150 permit holders in Morecambe Bay who earn our money during the season. But since January 1, we have been unable to export any cockles or mussels. I send them to someone on the south coast who then sends them to the Netherlands where they are processed and sent to the live markets.
“But from January 1, they have to be processed in this country before they are exported which shortens their shelf life.
“It’s not feasible to do a lot in this country.
“If we don’t have the paperwork we can’t move the product.
“There are beds nationwide, south Wales, North Wales, the Thames, all around the UK. They are all Class B waters which means all products from there need to be purified and processed.
“We are all out of work, we have got the product and the customers, we just can’t get it out of the country.
“There are no export health certificates for the industry until April 21 at the earliest , which ends our season as our season runs September to May.
“Unless the cockles and mussels have been processed in this country we can’t export them now.
“Customers are desperate, we are going to send a wagon this week coming but we could stand to lose a very lucrative industry.
“We have just been shut down. I have no income. Through the summer months I do a bit of fishing but I just break even really.
“From September to May we harvest the cockles and mussels and we have had four or five good years.
“This is our bread and butter.
“There is talk about it being October or November when the export health certificates come through.
“When we got this Brexit deal we were told it would all be ironed out, we have been pinning our hopes on it, it will be all good.
“If it carries on like this the live markets in France and Germany would be non-existent.
“We pick the cockles on a Monday, we send them on a Tuesday, they are kept until the weekend then they are processed and they can last 14 days.
“When we purify them their shelf life drops to two or three days so it can’t be done in the timescale.
“Flookburgh have had cockling and musseling for generations, the product is there and buyers are desperate for it, but there is no paperwork.
“I’ve had a permit for Morecambe Bay for the last six years and it has been an industry for generations nationwide.
“The government are on about compensating the fishing industry affected by the exports but that money will be going to the exporters, not us.
“The exporter will get the money, they are just helping the rich people get richer.
“We are out of work and not going to see any of this compensation.
“There are 150 permit holders for Morecambe Bay and we are all out of work.
“There are 40 or 50 local people to Morecambe that have permits and 100-120 other people.
“We are hoping something gets sorted out.”
Simon is 37 and lives in Overton with his wife and two children.
He said: “We just want to work and this is our prime season and we can’t work.”
Morecambe and Lunesdale MP David Morris said: “Although the cockle beds in Morecambe and Lunesdale are currently closed, I do have one Constituent affected by this issue who accesses beds in the Cumbrian parts of the Bay.
“I have already raised his concerns directly with the Fishing Minister and will be updating him directly when I have received a full response.”
A Defra spokesman said: “Live bivalve molluscs such as oysters, mussels, clams, cockles and scallops can continue to be exported to the EU if they’re harvested from class A waters or cleaned, or have cleared end product testing in the UK.
“We will continue to raise the issue of live bivalve molluscs not ready for human consumption with the EU, to ensure the trade can continue securely.”