Illegal shellfish harvesting clampdown in Scotland

By Gwen Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

A clampdown on illegal shellfish harvesting was launched in Scotland last week
A clampdown on illegal shellfish harvesting was launched in Scotland last week

Related tags: Public health, Environmental health officer

A clampdown of illegal shellfish harvesting was launched in Scotland last week (November 16), spearheaded by Highland Council’s Environmental Health Service (EHS).

The operation hoped to stem the tide on the illegal gathering, holding, transportation and selling of shellfish – with a focus on winkles and cockles.

The illegal shellfish campaign is part of a partnership between EHS and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the Gangmaster’s Licensing Authority (GLA), Police Scotland, Borders Agency and Marine Scotland Compliance.

The EHS has already taken enforcement action to stop one food business placing shellfish onto the market and prevented it from entering the food chain.

Illegal shellfish

Graeme Corner, Highland Council’s senior environmental health officer, said the partnership’s actions would prevent shellfish which was potentially harmful reaching consumers. 
“Furthermore, as shellfish harvested from Scottish waters are distributed throughout the world, any allegation of ill health caused by consumption of Scottish shellfish is very likely to have an adverse impact on the reputation of all shellfish food businesses,”​ added Corner.

“It is for these reasons that we have embraced a multi-agency approach to investigate activities of this type.” 

GLA head of operations Ian Waterfield called partnership initiatives were key to the organisation’s work and crucial in protecting the health of the public and the safety of the workers involved in gathering the shellfish.

Rigorous checks
“By law, anyone who uses workers to gather shellfish should be licensed by the GLA and subject to the rigorous checks that come with it,”​ said Waterfield.

“We were therefore happy to assist the other partners to check that both our licensing standards and legislation were adhered to.” 

The illegal gathering of shellfish has also proved to be a problem in Wales, with two men arrested in September​ following an investigation by North Wales Police and the GLA.

Christopher Mossman, 48, and nephew Kane Mossman, 20, admitted charges under the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act, in relation to organising a group of workers to gather shellfish.  

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