Operation targets unsafe cockle picking in Redcar
8th July 2020
The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), police and partners have carried out a proactive operation on Redcar beach and at South Gare following intelligence about people visiting the area to harvest cockles and other shellfish.
The GLAA, Cleveland Police, the North East Specialist Operations Unit (NERSOU), and the North East Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority shared intelligence in response to reports of large groups of people travelling into the area and being sighted cockle-picking.
Yesterday (July 7) fisheries officers from North East Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority carried out enforcement work with large gangs of up to 40 people who had been attempting to remove undersized crab and lobster on a commercial scale.
David McCandless, Chief Officer at the North East Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority said: “Our focus is on protecting the marine environment including ensuring shellfish is not removed below the minimum size and we can prosecute and sanction. It is a closed season for cockles, we haven’t issued a permit for the past 10 years as the stock levels are simply not sizeable enough to warrant it.”
Today (July 8) a family group were spoken to who were found to be picking cockles to use in a commercial restaurant in the Northumbria area.
Cockles found in the Redcar and Cleveland area are not fit for human consumption and eating them could cause severe illness and be potentially fatal for children.
Information will be passed to the Food Standards Agency for further investigation.
GLAA Head of Enforcement Ian Waterfield said: “The GLAA was created 15 years ago in response to a tragedy which claimed the lives of 23 cockle pickers. Ending exploitation and unsafe practices in gathering shellfish remains a top priority for our organisation, particularly because of the very real threat to life this work carries if it is conducted illegally.
“We will continue to work with partners to target non-compliance with regulations in this sector, and ensure that vulnerable workers are protected from exploitation.”
Inspector Dave Glass from Cleveland Police’s Complex Exploitation Team said: “Today’s multi-agency operation addressed both the public safety aspects of cockle-picking and the fact that historically it has been a pursuit of criminal gangs who are exploiting migrants from overseas.
“Today we did not make any arrests with regards to exploitation or human trafficking but the visibility of our operation is an important warning that agencies are working together on these issues.
“By sharing intelligence we have prevented unsafe cockles being served to unsuspecting public.
“We’d encourage local people to report any suspicious activity they see on the beach on 101.”
If you have information on illegal shellfish gathering on coastlines across the UK, contact the GLAA's intelligence team on 0800 4320804 or email email@example.com.
Alternatively, call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.