Partnership work tackles illegal shellfish gathering in Kent
9th August 2018
The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) joined officers from Kent Police’s Rural Taskforce and other partner agencies to tackle the illegal commercial picking of shellfish.
Kent Police has received reports of people seen during the summer months along the coastlines of the Isle of Sheppey, Swalecliff, Thanet and Whitstable who are taking large quantities of cockles, native oysters and periwinkles.
Shellfish from some areas around the Kent coastline can present a risk to human health. For this reason, commercial harvesting is strictly controlled.
Patrols attended Barton’s Point in Sheerness on Sunday 5 August after a report was received where people were seen collecting cockles on an industrial scale.
A 26-year-old man was arrested and transferred to Immigration Services.
The shellfish were returned to the ocean.
Staff and officers from both Kent Police, Swale Council, the GLAA and the Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (IFCA) are working together to not only stop the illegal commercial collection of shellfish but to also identify anyone involved in the activity who may be subject to labour exploitation.
The prevention work also limits the risk of untraceable shellfish being sold to the public.
Lead Fisheries Compliance and Enforcement Officer Jon Holl said: “Commercial cockle collection is a regulated activity along our coastline. The Morecambe Bay tragedy where 23 cockle pickers drowned is an example of organised gangs collecting for commercial purposes, with little regard for safety of pickers or sustainability of the fishery.
“We are pleased to be working with partners to prevent such incidents and tackle potential modern slavery issues.”
Swale’s Community Safety Unit Police Sergeant Jason Hedges said: “Illegally collecting shellfish for commercial purposes can not only affect the livelihoods of those who are legally permitted to fish but also affects the sustainability of the shellfish.
“People involved in this behaviour are also putting their own lives at risk and I would encourage anyone who believes they are seeing this activity taking place to call Kent Police on 101 or by calling the IFCA directly on 01843 585310 so this can be investigated.”
If you use or supply workers to gather shellfish you will need a GLAA licence.
It is a criminal offence to operate as a gangmaster without a licence, with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine.
If you are unsure about whether you need a licence, contact our licensing team by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.