Published: 08:29, 27 July 2021
| Updated: 08:31, 27 July 2021
Sheppey’s shores will be patrolled this summer as the council looks to clamp down on illegal shellfish harvesting.
It comes after reports last year that cockle-pickers were “raping” the Island’s beaches, taking away hauls reportedly worth up to £14,000 per day.
Cars were said to have been seen loaded up with five-gallon buckets of the shellfish, as well as small crabs and oysters, with the practice seen at Leysdown, Sheerness, Minster, Queenborough and around the Kingsferry Bridge.
Swale council will this year team up with Kent Police and the Kent and Essex Inland Fisheries and Conservation Authority (KEIFCA) in a bid to stop it happening again.
People can collect half a bucket of shellfish - around 5kg - for personal consumption.
Any more and it is deemed to be a commercial enterprise and you need to register. You cannot collect any volume of cockles without a permit.
Cllr Richard Palmer, cabinet member for communities, said: “We work with Kent Police and KEIFCA throughout the summer to crack down on any illegal shellfish harvesting.
“We respond to reports of illegal activity from the public and carry out regular patrols along our beaches and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
“We usually come across first-time offenders who are simply unaware of the rules, which is why we put up new signs around Sheppey.
“You can collect half a bucket (5kg) of shellfish for personal use and consumption. This includes manila clams bigger than 35mm and pacific oysters of any size.
“Anyone found to be attempting to harvest shellfish with the intention of selling them to restaurants and other food businesses will be reported to the Food Standards Agency.
“Shellfish can be very dangerous to eat if they haven’t been processed properly first.
“They feed by filtering food and suspended matter from the water they grow in.
“This means they retain contaminants such as E.coli, noroviruses, and algal toxins in their flesh.
“If you eat shellfish that hasn’t been processed, you are at risk of developing illnesses such as norovirus and hepatitis.”
If you suspect anyone of illegal shellfish collection you can report it to the police via the Country Eye app.
For more information about shellfish harvesting visit tinyurl.com/shellfishsheppey.