Winkle, winkles

Littorina littorea

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Mechanical harvesting
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

Mechanical harvesting of winkles can have a negative impact on the environment and removes and damages non-target organisms. Such methods are banned in the South Wales, Southern, and Kent & Essex Sea Inshore Fisheries Conservation Authority (IFCA) Districts. 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.


Capture Information

Mechanical harvesting of winkles is most likely to be carried out using a vacuum pump. This method can have a damaging effect on the local environment and is indiscriminate, collecting other molluscs and marine organisms. Such methods are banned in the South Wales, Kent & Essex, and Southern Inshore Fishery Conservation Authority (IFCA) Districts.