Capture method — Hand-gathering
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — UK
Stock detail — All Areas
Choose cockles harvested by sustainable methods only such as licensed hand gathering. Avoid eating them during the breeding season from March to July. Choose cockles from areas where there are measures, such as seasonal closures and minimum landing sizes, to protect the spawning stock or from certified fisheries, such as those in the Burry Inlet and Dee Estuary.
The common cockle is a bivalve mollusc found buried in mud and sand in estuaries and on beaches. Cockles have distinctive rounded shells that are slightly heart shaped. It is a bivalve (two identical shells) belonging to the family Cardidae meaning ‘heart-shaped’ . An organ called a siphon allows the animal to feed and breathe whilst buried in the sand. They can jump by bending and straightening the foot - the end bit- which is often coloured red and called the ‘red nose’. The shell size is up to 5cm long, although average sizes tend to be around 3-4cm. Maturity occurs at a shell length of around 2cm. Cockles spawn from March to August, although exact times will vary from region to region.
Species widely distributed on coastlines throughout North Atlantic region. Cockle stocks are potentially vulnerable to local over-exploitation and depletion. Cockles breed from around Easter to end of summer.
Cockle beds are managed in inshore waters in England through local byelaws enforced by Inshore Fishery Conservation Authorities (IFCAs). Byelaws may prohibit landing of cockles below a minimum landing size (MLS) and/or impose restrictions on the amount collected and/or the method by which they are collected. For example in Kent and Essex IFCA District, landing cockles below 16 mm is prohibited; in South Wales the MLS is 19mm; in North Western and North Wales the MLS is 20mm; in the Southern IFCA District the MLS is 24mm. In Cumbria the local IFCA undertakes annual surveys and stock assessments. In the Southern IFCA District, there is a seasonal fishery closure (1st February-30th April). Byelaws in the Southern IFCA District only permit fishing for cockles by hand, dredge or pump scoop dredge. In areas designated to protect seagrass for example, all methods are prohibited.
Hand-gathering is a traditional method of harvesting molluscs involving the use of hand tools such as tongs and rakes. In some areas it may be the only method permitted, e.g. Burry Inlet, Wales, Dorset and Cornwall.
Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.Abalone
Clam, Manila (Farmed)
Clam, Manila, Japanese carpet shell (Caught at sea)
Clam, Razor, clams
Crab, brown or edible
Crab, velvet swimming
Crawfish, Red Swamp
Crayfish or crawfish
Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi
Mussel, mussels (Caught at sea)
Mussel, mussels (Farmed)
Oyster, Native, oysters (Caught at sea)
Oyster, Native, oysters (Farmed)
Oyster, Pacific, oysters
Prawn, Endeavour, Greasy back
Prawn, King (whiteleg), prawns
Prawn, Northern, prawns
Prawn, Tiger, prawns
Scallop, Queen, scallops
Squid, Japanese flying