Published: 06:00, 16 July 2020
Villagers fighting to stop raiders "raping and pillaging" their nearby beach of shellfish have launched a petition urging authorities to make the law clearer.
It follows concerns about visitors pitching up in Grain, near Rochester and loading boxes of shellfish and other crustaceans into the boots of their cars.
The community has been left angry with the potential damage it is doing to the eco-system by hauling vast numbers of creatures away from the protected stretch of coast.
Photographs show groups of people arriving on the beach and carting their hauls to cars waiting in the car park.
The incidents in recent weeks are believed to be in breach of personal quota limits and there are also fears the quantities being taken mean they are for commercial purposes which can breach health and safety rules.
Now, residents Russell and Becky Craggs have set up the petition lobbying the Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (IFCA), the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Kent Police and Medway Council to make laws clearer about restrictions in place.
It has reached more than 600 signatures in under a week since being posted online.
The couple hope that by clarifying the rules about quotas people are allowed to take from the beach, it will prevent huge stocks of animals being taken.
They say not enough is being done to enforce the existing rules to make sure it is enough of a deterrent and want to see fines and criminal charges imposed.
Becky said: "By making this petition we are hoping to make the laws clearer on the quantity for personal consumption this must include permits, and to help the eco-system and to protect the environment.
"This is all a grey area which allows them to get away with and to also make someone responsible in upholding the laws."
Shorelines around the UK have specific conservation rules in place relating to the area where they are in force and many areas have their own byelaws.
The Kent and Essex IFCA oversees the environmental impact of fishing and harvesting and overall fisheries sustainability for the counties' coastlines which have a wide range of designated protective areas to help conserve marine life.
The authority says it holds concerns about shellfish being taken from beaches in vast quantity which could enter the food chain.
Dominic Bailey, assistant chief inshore fisheries and conservation officer from the Kent and Essex IFCA, says harvesting cockles is illegal and restrictions are in place to protect public health.
He said waters where animals destined for human consumption come from must be regularly tested to detect whether toxin producing plankton are present as are tests to monitor biotoxin levels in shellfish.
The IFCA says it is working in partnership to address a "number of areas of jurisdiction" connected to the issue of shellfish harvesting.
More by this authorMatt Leclere
This website and its associated newspaper are members of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO)