Case Studies

Dundalk Bay Cockle Fishery

The commercial Dundalk Cockle Fishery began in 2001 with 3 vessels. The vessels use a combination of hydraulic suction and hydraulic non-suction to capture the cockles. The fishery expanded rapidly in the following years with the number of vessels increasing to 21 in 2004 and 28 in 2007 leading to a collapse in 2007. The fishery was closed in this year in order to complete a stock assessment of the area so that a rational management regime could be devised to protect the recruitment potential of the cockle population. Reasons for the decline of the fishery included no consideration for the status of the cockle stock or any interactions with waterbirds in previous management and there was no control over catch or effort. A number of management measures were introduced when the fishery reopened:

-protect the spawning potential and future recruitment by limiting the removals of cockles
-minimise disturbance and allow recovery of benthic fauna by restricting the spatial and temporal extent of the fishery
-limit the removals in order to protect the food base for overwintering waterbirds
-provide fair and equitable access to the TAC for cockle fishermen

Although these management measures were an improvement on previous measures they did have weaknesses as there was no control over the number of vessels entering the fishery and there was a high discard mortality rate as small cockles were being caught and discarded a number of times. A 2009 management plan introduced new measures for the fishery such as restrictions on the number and size of vessels joining the fishery and a harvest rule of thumb to reserve 33% of biomass for waterbirds, 33% for future recruitment and 33% for the fishery. Discussions regarding the management of the Dundalk cockle fishery have always been between Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM) and the Dundalk Bay Cockle Local Advisory Committee (LAC), which is comprised of a number of local fishermen representing the local fleets.

For more information see:

Assessment, monitoring and management of the Dundalk Bay and Waterford Estuary Cockle (Cerastoderma edule) Fisheries in 2007

The Fishery Management Plan for Cockle (Cerastoderma edule) in Dundalk Bay 2009

Study Areas

Hosted by Queen's University School of Biological Sciences