Winkle, winkles

Littorina littorea

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Hand-gathering
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — All Areas
Stock detail — I-IX
Picture of Winkle, winkles

Sustainability rating rating under review info

Sustainability overview

Most winkles are collected or gathered by hand, which is a selective method of harvesting that causes less habitat disturbance. Minimum landing sizes for winkles vary between regions, but selecting larger, mature winkles (over 2cm) allows for them to have spawned. Choose winkles harvested by hand-gathering methods in areas which are well managed.


Winkles are gastropod molluscs (having a one-piece coiled shell) that graze on a range of algae. All species of winkle have distinct males and females. The shell size can attain about 3.5cm in length, but is usually about 2.5cm. Both males and females reach maturity at 1-1.2cm. Winkles usually live about 3 years but can survive for 4-5 years. They inhabit rocky shores in all but the most exposed coastlines, and in sheltered conditions can be found in sandy bays and mudflats, particularly in estuaries, and they are quite tolerant of brackish conditions. They are mainly intertidal but can be found at depths of 60m at the northern end of its range. They spawn from March until June.

Stock information

Winkles occur throughout the UK, although they are rare in the Channel Islands and the Isles of Scilly. Their distribution extends from Spain in the south to the White Sea (Russia) in the north. There are currently no assessments of winkle stocks in the UK.


Southern IFCA - No person shall take from a fishery any periwinkles between the 15th day of May in any year and the 15th day of September in the same year, both days inclusive. No person shall take periwinkles except by hand picking. sUSSEX ifca - Winkle closed season byelaw. No person shall take or fish for periwinkles in any year during the period beginning the 15th day of May and ending the 15th day of September following, both dates inclusive.

Capture Information

Hand picking or gathering causes less disturbance to the habitat on which winkles occur, and allows for a greater size selectivity. In some coastal waters of England and Wales it may be the only method permitted, e.g. Kent and Essex Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (IFCA) District. A closed season for winkles is also enforced here from 15 May to 15 September.