Have you heard the cockles sing?

Janet tells how the tragedy of the Chinese cocklers in 2004 led to changes in the laws and the effect that had on the local fishing community.

Traditional to modern

The cockles ‘sing’ when the wind is in a certain direction, so said the old fishermen. Traditions and knowledge built up through generations of fishing folk are being lost as this trade, Janet believes, is dying out. Radar on boats can now detect the cockles.

Mussels were handpicked and taken to Whitby by Janet’s family for the skeiners.  Now there are fewer mussels, which are bottom feeders, as the quality of the waters in the Bay is changing. Cockles, which were once treaded and riddled in the fisherman’s yard to separate them, are put through machines now to do the same job.

Janet’s mother-in-law sold the fish and produce the family brought in at the local markets. Now the cockles are exported to France.

Rules and regulations

The tragedy of the Chinese cocklers in 2004 led to new regulations. Janet was a member of North West Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority for 4 years. They brought in permits and licences with costs attached. Experienced local fishermen had to take courses to get certificates. Janet believes that if they are aged over 65 years they should be exempt – grandfather rights.

Janet is chair of Morecambe Bay Fishermen’s Association, which recently bought a strip of foreshore at Aldingham for access to the Bay at any time. Janet argues that there are not enough fishermen now to demand their rights and that more leniency of the rules should be given to local fishermen.

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